BE­HIND CLOSED DOORS: LAM­BORGH­INI HQ

WE GO BE­HIND CLOSED DOORS AT LAM­BORGH­INI, ITALY’S QUIET ACHIEVER – AND TALK TO THE BOSS ABOUT WHAT THE FU­TURE HOLDS

Motor (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

An ex­clu­sive glimpse into Italy’s original up­start and a chat to the boss about what’s next

THE EAR­LI­EST SUR­VIV­ING Coun­tach is look­ing bet­ter – and more original – than it has in years. Res­cued from a barn in Switzer­land in 2000, and brought back to Sant’Agata, chas­sis #001 has spent the last two decades in Lam­borgh­ini’s on-site mu­seum, which links the factory’s mod­ern en­trance with the ’60s original. The mu­seum’s much bet­ter for a re­cent re­fresh, and so is the car. Orig­i­nally painted red for its ap­pear­ance at the 1973 Geneva motor show, it was re­sprayed green for that au­tumn’s Paris salon, and has just re­ceived an­other coat of the same. But the big change is be­yond those scis­sor doors. The original al­can­tara-cov­ered dash and bizarre blocky seats that look like giant, slightly melted Cad­bury’s Dairy Milk bars (which were re­placed with reg­u­lar pro­duc­tion items when the car was sold off in the early ’70s) have been repli­cated with help of pho­tographs from a pe­riod mag­a­zine. It looks fan­tas­tic, though the driv­ing po­si­tion and over­all to­tal lack of com­fort is as aw­ful now as it was 14 years ago when I sat in the non-run­ning Coun­tach and made V12 noises to my­self. Rooowww­woooor­rrrr! One of the many press­ing ques­tions fac­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive Ste­fano Domeni­cali is how Lam­borgh­ini can avoid leav­ing it to fu­ture cus­tomers to bring their own noise. Will it be pos­si­ble for Lam­borgh­ini, a com­pany whose leg­end is built partly around glo­ri­ous howl­ing engines, to tran­si­tion to the elec­tri­fied era in a way that’s true to its spirit – in sound, in style and in per­for­mance?

The ever-smiling Domeni­cali seems un­fazed. After all, at the time of our meet­ing, 2020 was on course to be Lam­borgh­ini’s best year yet. But that course has changed. As I write this, weeks after our visit, Lam­borgh­ini’s Sant’Agata factory lies silent, struck dumb by the COVID-19 virus that rav­aged north­ern Italy. A forced shut­down has tem­po­rar­ily halted pro­duc­tion in what was set to be a bumper year. (It has since re­sumed.)

Em­bold­ened by the in­tro­duc­tion of the Urus SUV, Lam­borgh­ini’s 2019 sales sky­rock­eted 43 per cent to an all-time high of 8205 units. That was the ninth con­sec­u­tive year of global sales growth, built on record-break­ing expansion in ev­ery re­gion. Al­though the Urus ac­counted for nearly 5000 of those sales, both the V10 and V12 sports cars were also sell­ing well. The smaller fam­ily, now five years old, be­came Lam­borgh­ini’s all-time best-seller dur­ing 2019; the Hu­ra­can’s pre­de­ces­sor, the Gal­lardo, took twice as long to sell the same 14,000 units.

The Sant’Agata site that oc­cu­pied 10,000 square me­tres back in 1963 takes up 160,000 to­day. The work­force has swollen hugely, too. In 2011 there were fewer than 1000 work­ers. To­day

there are al­most 1800; 700 of them re­cruited in the last two years, mostly to work on the SUV.

Ini­tially, Urus shells ar­rived fully painted from Audi’s Neckar­sulm plant, though there’s now a ded­i­cated SUV paint shop in Sant’Agata. That makes it eas­ier to in­te­grate Lam­borgh­ini’s Ad Per­sonam pro­gram into the Urus build process. Around 70 per cent of Aven­ta­dors and al­most half of all Hu­ra­cans are or­dered with some kind of per­son­alised spec­i­fi­ca­tion, and an in­creas­ing num­ber of Urus cus­tomers want their own look, too.

But be­sides cater­ing to buy­ers’ per­sonal tastes, Lam­borgh­ini’s deal­ers, whose num­ber has grown from 110 to al­most 160, are also hav­ing to get used to the pre­vi­ously un­heard-of idea of or­der­ing cars for stock.

“We needed to change the sales model to re­flect the way the mar­ket has moved,” ex­plains Domeni­cali. “Some loyal cus­tomers might be pre­pared to wait for their cars, par­tic­u­larly if they want some per­son­al­i­sa­tion in­cluded, but in some mar­kets, if you can’t of­fer a car to the cus­tomer there and then, you lose the sale. They’ll move to the sec­ond coolest brand.”

It’s no co­in­ci­dence that Domeni­cali’s four years in charge have co­in­cided with a mas­sive in­crease in its so­cial me­dia pres­ence and fol­low­ing to ce­ment that ‘cool’ rep.

‘IN SOME MAR­KETS, IF YOU CAN’T OF­FER A CAR THERE AND THEN, YOU LOSE THE SALE’

STE­FANO DOMENI­CALI

TOP Coun­tach #001 (break­out on p78) has been re­stored to its for­mer glory, much like the com­pany it­self

MAIN The Sian will be Lam­borgh­ini’s first pro­duc­tion hy­brid – and its most pow­er­ful ever car

LEFT Domeni­cali, 55, is liv­ing quite a dif­fer­ent life com­pared to his run­ning of the Fer­rari F1 team, his gig from 2008 to 2014

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