Lamborghini expects to post record vehicle sales in 2018 for the eighth consecutive year. The Urus, the Italian supercar maker's first modern-era SUV, is giving the Volkswagen Group-owned company a big boost. But Lamborghini faces challenges, such as embracing electrification, adding a fourth model to push annual sales beyond 10,000 units and reducing waiting times for the Urus. Lamborghini CEO Stefano Domenicali was interviewed by Automotive News Europe Associate Publisher and Editor Luca Ciferri.
Q: After a long wait, the Urus went on sale this year. How are sales?
A: Ahead of our ambitions. By the end of October, the order bank had already exceeded the entire production for next year.
Which markets showed unexpected high demand?
Russia, India and South Korea generated twice the demand we planned. This is extremely promising given that these markets will only get the first Urus models early next year, so all these orders came in even before the product was shown there.
Are buyers trading in used Lamborghinis when they buy a Urus?
Two-thirds of them (so 20 percent of total demand) add the Urus to their stable that on average already comprises between four and six vehicles. One-third of Urus customers trade in a high-performance SUV such as a Bentley Bentayga, Mercedes AMG or Porsche Cayenne Turbo.
What is the biggest risk after the Urus' fast start?
Waiting lists getting too long for a product like this. Customers are happy to wait one or even two years for our two-seat supercars (V-12 Aventador and V-10 Huracan) to get the exact car they want. In the SUV segment there is more competition so customers are less patient.
Will you increase Urus production?
The installed annual capacity is 3,500 units a year. We are looking at ways to get quickly to 4,000 and eventually even to 4,500.
You said a year ago that the Urus will not steal sales from two-seat sports cars. The Urus is doing better than you expected, so is this still valid?
Luckily it is. Lamborghini's global sales were up by 11 percent to 2,327 units in the first half, and we only delivered the first Urus models in August. We have not seen cannibalization between Lamborghini products because the Urus is a daily driver while the two-seaters rarely are used on an everyday basis. We expect the two-seat sport cars to close the year with a double-digit growth, because — as expected — the Urus doesn't replace another Lamborghini in our customers' stable, but an SUV.
Will Lamborghini have record vehicle sales this year?
We could close 2018 with something between 5,300 to 5,500 units, a significant progress from the 3,815-unit record set last year. And 2018 will mark our eighth consecutive yearly growth. We plan to deliver 1,200 to 1,300 Urus models by year end.
Could you reach 10,000 units in 2019?
Never say never, but it is not in our current plans. We envisage 7,500 to 8,000 units for 2019. We think that we could get to 10,000 only by adding a fourth product.
Could a 2+2 GT, the ideal successor to the Espada launched in 1968, be your fourth product?
We are working hard to combine high performance with interior space and driving comfort in a package that, designwise, should be striking as well as highly efficient in terms of aerodynamics. Our target is to reach the market between 2025 and 2027, so we are not in a hurry. We also have to decide which would be the right powertrain in such a time frame and in a segment we have not competed in for over 40 years.
Is a full-electric 2+2 GT possible?
It is, but together with a high-performance plug-in hybrid. Our final decision should combine what Volkswagen Group could offer in terms of available technology with what Lamborghini customers are asking for. This is the most difficult decision we have to take at Lamborghini and, luckily, we still have time to ponder all the available options. As of today, we do not hear that Lamborghini customers are asking for a battery-powered model, but maybe in seven to nine years they will be — and we should be ready.
When will Lamborghini launch its first plug-in hybrid model?
Probably around 2021, with the Aventador replacement that will add a motor to its V-12 engine. The same will happen later also on the V-10 family, when we replace the Huracan. A plug-in model is the only way to maintain performance and keep Lamborghini's engine sound while also reducing emissions.
What about a Urus plug-in hybrid?
We are still working on this, but we have realigned our priorities. First and foremost, we have to boost production of the Urus, and adding a powertrain variant that is extremely complex to build doesn't help. Secondly, we have seen that a V-6-powered plug-in did not offer the performance level a Lamborghini should deliver. We began working on a V-8 plug-in, but we are not there yet.
How is Lamborghini doing in China?
With two-seat models, we are a niche within a niche in China. Our presence will start to be significant with a four-seater such as the Urus.
That said, homologation rules in China change very quickly and this is a big problem for a small company such as Lamborghini, not only on the investment side, but also on the pure engineering power side.
Will a hard Brexit affect Lamborghini?
I have no means to predict the future, so I will refrain from doing so. Nevertheless, so far this year the UK has been very strong for Lamborghini. It became our second-largest market, moving Japan to No. 3. So I am reasonably optimistic that our success in the UK could continue.
The U.S. is your largest market. Which market was No. 4 last year, and which will be this year?
Germany in both cases.
What surprise could come from Lamborghini?
To underline that with the Urus we have successfully created a new breed of SUVs, which we call superSUV, we may launch a one-make championship Urus like we do with the Huracan coupe in the European, Asian and North American Super Trofeo one-make racing series.
We think that having Uruses competing on a racetrack will help to underline that this superSUV offers super performance not only off-road but also on the most demanding roads: racing circuits.