CEO Stephan Winkelmann won't try to top last year's numbers.
Stephan Winkelmann, 41, head of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. since January, said he decided shortly after his appointment not to top last year's global sales of 1,592 cars in 2005. It's an unusual decision for a carmaker - but not so bizarre for Lamborghini.
For 40 years of its existence, Lamborghini sold about 250 cars a year. It has had an unusual series of owners since it was launched in 1962 by Ferruccio Lamborghini. They included the Chrysler group and a group of Indonesian investors.
In 1998, Lamborghini was acquired by Audi. Audi invested the equivalent of about $419 million at today's exchange rates and assisted with engineering, Winkelmann said.
Since 2001, Lamborghini has launched two cars - the Murcielago coupe, with a base price of $289,300, and convertible powered by a V-12 engine, and the Gallardo V-10 coupe, which starts at about $176,300. The prices include delivery, but not the gas-guzzler tax. An open-top Gallardo arrives next year.
With new cars, improved quality and faster assembly methods, sales have skyrocketed.
Jean Jennings, editor in chief of Automobile magazine, said Italian exotic brands have improved quality in recent years.
"Not all that long ago, you expected an Italian supercar's character to include the curse of poor quality. It was a given," Jennings said.
"That's just not so anymore. Today's Lamborghinis feel the most handmade, but even they feel downright reliable."
Bigger U.S. presence
Rather than volume growth, Lamborghini needs to focus on building stronger ties between its dealers and its customers, Winkelmann said.
The United States is its biggest market, but Lamborghini doesn't even have an office here.
The first step toward establishing more of a presence is looking for a public relations officer, Winkelmann said.
It's also in the midst of increasing its global dealer network, adding 15 dealerships this year for a total of 80 - including two more in the United States for a total of 26 here.
The Audi link has helped Lamborghini by supplying not only crucial engineering and design expertise but also components that don't affect brand image.
Lamborghini has to continue to do its own styling and design and build its V-10 and V-12 engines. Everything else can be shared with Audi, Winkelmann said.
"Heavy investment would be impossible for us - you only get a return from a scale of cars that is much bigger than what we have."
Lamborghini is no longer in the red. For the first time since Audi bought the company, it earned a profit of about $4.8 million last year. Lamborghini expects to make a similar profit this year, Winkelmann said.
He said that Lamborghini has no plans to expand its range for now.
A key reason is lack of capacity. Capacity is about 2,000 cars a year, Winkelmann said. Its plant in Sant'Agata, Italy, only assembles the cars; the body-in-white and key modules, including the interior, come from suppliers.
It is also Audi's turn to reap something from the investment. Audi will launch a production version of its
Le Mans all-wheel-drive concept mid-engine sports car as early as next year and use the Gallardo platform and 5.0-liter V-10.