There is no denying that Lamborghini’s chequered past led to its eventual acquisition by Volkswagen-Audi in 1999.
The Germans were determined to revive the ailing Italian supercar maker, whose sales barely topped 300 units annually. In 2005, Stephan Winkelmann was brought in to helm Lamborghini in this effort.
Winkelmann led the Italian supercar company to over 3000 units in yearly sales. He also oversaw the development of the carbon fibre-bodied, V12-powered Aventador.
One of the last things he did as CEO of Lamborghini was to convince the governing board at VW-Audi to green-light the Urus super-SUV, arguably one of the most important products for the brand’s long-term survival.
After 11 years at Lamborghini, Winkelmann decided to move closer to the “mothership” and was appointed CEO of Audi Sport in 2016. And in January 2018, he became head of Bugatti, which is also owned by the VW-Audi group.
After Winkelmann left, Lamborghini was headed by Stefano Domenicali.
Last year, Lamborghini’s leadership was thrown into disarray once again when Domenicali departed to become head of racing at FIA.
But in a surprise move, the top spot was again taken up by Winkelmann.
“I received a call and I said yes, it is always a process of interviews, but it was easy to adjust to returning to Lamborghini”, remarked Winkelmann, who is now in charge of both Lamborghini and Bugatti.
ELECTRIFICATION AND AUTONOMOUS DRIVING
When asked if Lamborghini would be electrifying its range, he replied: “When we decide to, it must be the right time to do so. The acceptance by clients is important, and we must be the best at using the new technology.”
The path to electrification includes hybridisation and this suits Lamborghini as it will allow their wonderful naturally aspirated V12 to live on for another generation.
Winkelmann said: “Of course, electrification makes it easier to meet the regulations for fuel consumption and emissions. But we need to ensure that it will also have the same performance or better, despite the level of environmental compatibility”.
As for autonomous cars, he had this to say: “In the world, there is no one-size-fits-all. And while I believe there is an autonomous future, there is always a place for brands like ours to exist.”
However, autonomous driving technology does not fit the marque. “The purpose of a car like a Lamborghini is to drive it – not be driven in it,” said Winkelmann.
When asked about the current pandemic, he commented: “It is difficult to analyse why, but the pandemic has affected us less than other manufacturers.”
“Bugatti had its best year ever in 2020. And surprisingly, Lamborghini was less affected last year compared to any downturn in the last 20 years.”
“My first order of business is to be brought up to speed on all future and ongoing projects”.
Despite being German, Stephan Winkelmann has received two significant Italian honours for his success with Lamborghini.
In 2009, he was awarded the title of Grand Officer in the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 2009 (Grande Ufficiale dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana).
In 2014, Winkelmann received Italy’s highest citation, Order of Merit of The Italian Republic, Knight Grand Cross. It was awarded through the presidential act of “Motu Proprio” for the remarkable success achieved by Winkelmann as CEO of one of the most important Italian companies.
Today there is much more to handle, and a different level of complexity compared to when he first stepped into the leadership position.
But there is no one who knows Lamborghini better than the person who resurrected it 15 years ago.