What Stephan Winkelmann needs to do to inject life into Lamborghini

Published: Yesterday 15:30

Urus PHEV overdue
► New Huracan nearly four years away
► Where has that new model got to?

Lamborghini is en route to full electrification by 2026 thanks to a new model. Wiry multilingual fashion aficionado Stephan Winkelmann is behind the project – but he still has an awful lot to do.

The previous CEO, Stefano Domenicali, quit his job to join the Formula 1 marketer Liberty Media in 2020. Domenicali constantly locked horns with Wolfsburg bigwigs, but Winkelmann's more diplomatic approach has proven to be a success with the board.

Winkelmann weathered last year well too. Despite a couple of Covid-induced production stoppages, the 2020 output fell only by a relatively modest 9% to 7430 units while earnings per vehicle sold again eclipsed even Porsche, making Lamborghini – in relative terms – the group's most profitable brand.

Stephan Winkelmann Lambo

What's next for Lamborghini?

Domenicali and his R&D chief Maurizio Reggiani somehow convinced Audi and VW Group chiefs in Ingolstadt and Wolfsburg to sign off a brand-new eight-cylinder engine as the sole power unit for the next Huracan, with the capability to be partly electrified.

The brand specialists also did a fine job fattening the bottom line with pricey limited-edition models, additional low-volume bodystyles and trick high-performance variants. Last year alone, six such new models were introduced – and quickly sold out.

Facelift Lamborghini Urus snapped testing

But we are still awaiting the overdue Urus PHEV and the raw Sport RS, due to arrive along with a facelift in 2022. The next-generation model could be pushed back as far as 2028.

The replacements for Aventador and Huracan were repeatedly delayed and so far the tentative fourth model range only exists in various stages of full-size clay imagination.

According to Lambo's own forecast, the brand may lose up to 3500 sales (and the corresponding revenues) per year during the 2021-2025 transformation period due to an embarrassing shortage of fresh product.

Although signore Reggiani was way ahead of the e-game when he launched the PHEV Tosca concept in 2015, production-ready electrification is still in its infancy in Sant'Agata Bolognese.

The first plug-in model is the facelifted Urus PowerHybrid due in 2022. About 250kg heavier than the base car, the part-time clean-air SUV features a transmission which can accommodate up to 125kW of e-power but is limited to around 660lb ft of torque – well short of the 960-plus lb ft offered by the fully electric competition.

Facelift Urus snapped testing

Porsche is the supplier of the future combustion engine for the Urus PowerHybrid. Codenamed LK5, it can deliver up to 600bhp. That's 50bhp less than today's eight-ender and 75bhp less than the Sport RS, but thanks to a feisty electric power unit the grand total is due to climb to 820bhp.

The next Huracan is still almost four years away. The brand may have to invest in a stopgap freshening which wouldn't include a beefed-up drivetrain since the V10 has definitely reached the end of the bhp road.

Alternatively, marketing could revive a couple of previously discussed concepts like the Sterrato crossover or the 2WD Superleggera.

What does Volkswagen have in mind for Lamborghini?

According to the Wolfsburg grapevine, plans to go public with Lamborghini, Ducati and Italdesign are well advanced – but due to the coronavirus pandemic and the volatile markets, this move may have to wait until early 2022, sources claim. Needless to say, VW intends to keep the majority of shares.

To ensure this is time gained, not time lost, group chiefs are investigating ways to plant Lamborghini even more firmly in corporate ground. Prospects like the option to twin the next Huracan with the next Audi super sports car and a dedicated modular electrification strategy for said sports cars are being discussed.

Whether these and related measures will calm the waters in the Bermuda triangle between Sant'Agata, Ingolstadt and Zuffenhausen remains to be seen.

What did Winkelmann do for Bugatti?

Under his leadership of the Molsheim-based boutique car maker, the German-born top manager kicked off the Divo and Centodieci, as well as the La Voiture Noire one-off for Ferdinand Piech and the lightweight Bolide concept, not to mention additional iterations of the Chiron hypercar limited to 500 vehicles.

Stephan Winkelmann Bugatti

His attempts to introduce a second model range – a front-engined super coupe and a hyper-CUV were among the favourites – failed, but certainly not due to a lack of creativity and enthusiasm. Instead, the Wolfsburg bigwigs felt in the wake of Piech’s passing away no longer compelled to support the Bugatti brand.

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

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