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Catching Up With: Stefano Domenicali, Automobili Lamborghini CEO




Stefano Domenicali was a familiar face on the Ferrari Formula 1 pit wall for years, succeeding Jean Todt as team principal in the Scuderia’s immediate post-Michael Schumacher/Ross Brawn reign. The 51-year-old Italian, son of a banker, graduated from Bologna University and subsequently joined Ferrari’s financial department before soon becoming a player in the motorsports management realm. He resigned from his Maranello post in the spring of 2014, joining German powerhouse Audi that fall. But it didn’t take long before the four rings decided to return him to his Italian roots as the man charged with leading a reinvigorated Lamborghini into a new era.

AM: How has the transition been from Maranello, first to Audi and now to Lamborghini?

SD: After one and a half years’ with Audi, the CEO called me and said, ‘Your next challenge: Lamborghini.’ It’s [a big] responsibility because it’s a brand that is growing. Now we have Aventador, the Huracán, and the one-off series — these are closely related, but they need to look to the future with the SUV that will be ready in 2018 that will be a game changer for us.

2016 Lamborghini Huracan Spyder front three quarter in motion 03 2

2016 Lamborghini Huracan Spyder front three quarter in motion 03 2

AM: How much do you expect to see Lamborghini change?

SD: You know we are thinking of future products. What will be the right technology applied in this segment? Lamborghini is recognizable for the lines, for the design, but also for the engine music and for the technology.

AM: Ah yes, the sound. How long can you do these naturally aspirated V-12s and V-10s?

SD: The first comment I received when I met with dealers and customers was, “Please do not touch the V-12. Please.” We are a niche market, so in the short-term we have the duty to not betray our customers. In the short-term, the V-12 will be there. What is important is to see when would be the right moment to be flexible enough [to change], when there is the right moment with the right costs, with the right approach.

AM: Ferrari doesn’t currently do a four-door or an SUV, but the latter will work for Lamborghini?

SD: I think it fits very well. In a way, that segment will be complimentary to the one that we have now. [That means] great design, cutting-edge design, good dimensions, good presence. I’m expecting our customers who have our sports cars will have also the SUV because they want to be proud of having all of the family. But we will be in a segment where the major manufacturers are already there, so the competition will be very, very high. But the demand for this product is huge.

Lamborghini Centenario LP 770 4 Roadster 07

Lamborghini Centenario LP 770 4 Roadster 07

AM: You recently revealed the Centenario roadster during Monterey Car Week. Do you want to do more ultra-low-volume products like this?

SD: The one-off [car] approach will stay in the future, because it’s a way to give value to certain cars but also to show some technology that will be applied in the future models.

AM: Decades ago Lamborghini was a pioneer with carbon fiber, and now you might be considering things like making internal engine parts from it …

SD: Carbon fiber is part of our DNA now, because we were the first to invest in these kinds of cars with the chassis, with the other technology, and now we are working on step two of that side of the forged carbon fiber. And we have just opened a new laboratory in Seattle. Great attention there, because there are a lot of people, a lot of companies that recognize the value of what is really the technology we have achieved in that respect.

AM: The plug-in hybrid Asterion coupe concept car is another route of attack. Plug-in hybrids, using electric power — how much is that technology part of your future as well?

SD: Why not? Not in the short-term, because we have to concentrate our efforts on [what we have]. This year will be a record year for us, touch wood. But we want to keep the market aspirational, and so we don’t want to push for volume. We want to keep an exclusivity, but with an SUV we’re going to double the numbers we are talking about, so it’s a huge challenge for us. If we are able to achieve success, then we can think about another model [and that sort of technology], but not in the short-term. Wait and see. What I can say for sure is, what you are going to see from Lamborghini always will be a car that gives you passion to drive. This is fundamental. You cannot be in the mobility world with our brand. If you have a Lamborghini, you need to have the passion to drive.

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November 13, 2016