Even supercars are not immune to the financial crisis, with Lamborghini halting production for two weeks between February and March. The Sant'Agata company's production slowdown will affect around 300 of its 1000-plus workforce as it responds to the weaker market for its luxury sports cars. "We have established a decade of sales increases, including another record year for deliveries in 2008 but we cannot maintain the previous levels of production during the downturn," Lamborghini President and CEO, Stephan Winkelmann, said.
"Therefore, in agreement with the unions, we have decided to implement the option of a working time reduction. This provides a flexible reaction to market volatilities and helps ensure jobs in the long term," he said. It's the latest in a long line of troubles for the world's most exclusive car makers, with Ferrari, Bentley, Aston Martin and Maserati all struggling to keep demand ahead of supply. The slowdown also has the sanction of the head of the union representing Italy's car workers. Alberto Cocchi, of the Rappresentanza Sindacale Unitaria, said: "The working time reduction has been agreed in order to safeguard jobs and to retain the growth realised by the company during the previous two years.
"Paying attention to personnel will be crucial for economic recovery," he said. While both parties consider the move a prudent response to global economic conditions, Winkelmann emphasised that Lamborghini was not cutting back on research and development, global brand expansion or investment. "The company will not abandon its long-term strategy and is not making any reductions in its investment plans. We are committed to introducing one new product each year," he said.
But Lamborghini is not the first supercar maker to feel the financial pinch. Maserati has slowed production at its Modena, Italy, factory from 50 to 30 cars a day, even as it launches an updated version of its flagship Quattroporte four-door saloon. And, while it denies any ill effects from the financial crisis, Ferrari has shed more than 300 of its agency-appointed workers from the F430 production line - though it insists it has no plans to release any contracted Ferrari employees. Its V12 production line, which produces the 612 Scaglietti and the critically acclaimed 599 Fiorano GTB, has nearly ground to a halt.
While it has a massive order book for the coupe-convertible California V8 which comes on stream this year, it has large stocks of the mid-engined F430 languishing in dealerships around the world. This is especially disturbing for Ferrari, and explains the extraordinary secrecy it continues to employ to hide development of the F430's replacement, the F450, which will start production in July. Meanwhile, in Britain, Aston Martin called for 600 redundancies - a third of its workforce - in December. Things aren't getting any better for the company, part owned by Middle Eastern investors, because in January it moved to a three-day production week.
Bentley is also struggling and will shut its Crewe factory for seven weeks from March to May this year. It shed 220 production staff in January, which followed the laying off of 230 staff in December. Those remaining in work aren't complaining too much about the 10 per cent pay cut they've been forced to take. But supercar makers are not the only victims of the crisis. Mini last week confirmed it was releasing 850 agency workers from their contracts at the British factory.