Angus: Lamborghini is a global supercar brand, but we notice that you are quite close to many of the people here. Is it almost like a family reunion?
Stephan W: Yes, a lot of these guys I know are our customers and very close to the brand. We do a lot of events together, driving together. These two couples I’ve known for many years. And it’s also generational I find to a degree. Their son is in the army, and he too of course is a lover of Lamborghini.
Angus: Speaking of generational owners; with Lamborghini celebrating its 50th Anniversary what do you see as the major achievements since the company’s founding, and where do you see the company heading over the next 25 to 50 years?
SW: I think what we’ve done in the past ten years has been nothing short of outstanding in the automotive community. If you look at the numbers, we tripled production in the past decade, which over the past fifty years means two-thirds of Lamborghini’s entire sales happened in the last ten years.
We also now have a presence, supported by a solid factory that produces high quality parts, as well as a state of the art design and R&D department that is producing unique, world class cars. But in going forward, it’s clear the issues will be getting tougher. By that I mean issues around homologation, consumption and taxation will be challenging, especially for a company like Lamborghini. I also see a lot of opportunity for the brand in the future if we can use the past decade as a guide. If we can manage all of this over the next fifty years, then that will be perfect.
Angus: How does the success of the last decade, with the introduction of the Murcielago, the Aventador series and of course the Gallardo, affect the prospects of the company moving forward?
SW: Yes, they have been very successful for us, plus it is also important as it allows us to repay old, big investments. This is a key for us in going forward.
Angus: In regard particular markets, do you find the United States more challenging to deal with in terms of taxation and environmental issues relative to other markets?
SW: No, there are far more challenges coming up in the short term in China. But all the things that are coming up are consumption related. And China is our second biggest market after the United States so it is very important to the brand that we are aware of these and can address these issues appropriately.
Angus: Let’s talk about hybrid technology since this is on everyone’s dinner plate. We have Porsche’s 918 Spyder, we have Ferrari’s LaFerrari and many others following suit. Do you see Lamborghini going in that direction?
SW: You know, this is interesting. We are into naturally aspirated engines. We’ve grown up with these types of engines. It’s part of our tradition, part of our technology. We don’t want to be the first ones to adopt technology where the only purpose is to reduce consumption. This is not what Lamborghini is about. I see there is a line in the future in which naturally aspirated engines will work with hybridization. Lamborghini is very open to this technology and it is an opportunity that we are looking at carefully, but everything at the right time. It is not the job of Lamborghini now to be the car which is less than the others. I mean Lamborghini only produces just over 2,000 cars a year. So in a world where over 65 million cars are sold, our CO2 footprint is relatively insignificant compared to global figures. But it is a very delicate balancing act for us and we are keeping this in mind for our brand values.
Angus: Is cost a factor in introducing new approaches to areas like weight reduction for example?
SW: Yes there are a lot of areas where the cost of development makes the technology not really feasible at this time. Again, the newer thing is not always the best. But we see that this is an opportunity, we are not blind. We are open to new technologies, just everything in time.
Angus: To put new technology aside for a moment, how did a guy with a degree in Political Science end up becoming the CEO of Lamborghini?
SW: (laughing) I always did what I was interested in. I was born into motorcycles as a kid. I love things which are a technological challenge. I love things that have a brand and so I think the car industry is the most complex industry, because I think you have what is fashionable combined with very high levels of investment mixed with high levels of technology and engineering complexity. Then you have the complexity of marketing, sales and after sales. I don’t think there is any product that is as complex, challenging and interesting. I’m happy, and proud, to be a part of Lamborghini.
Regarding my political science background and how I got here, there were a number of coincidences. After my studies I never intended to be in politics or stay at the university. For me it was the need to find new shores, new challenges.