Stefan Winkelmann has traveled a long way to end up in the same place. Having worked for Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Mercedes-Benz he made his name as Lamborghini’s boss. He joined the company in 2005 at 41 and led a dramatic increase in sales, and the creation of a third model line in the bulky Urus SUV. But Volkswagen Group’s desire to move its senior executives saw him switched to a less-happy role at Audi’s quattro GmbH division in 2016, and then onto become president of Bugatti two years later. But when Stefano Domenicali left Lamborghini to lead the Formula 1 Group last December, Winkelmann was reappointed as the company’s CEO, holding the role in conjuction with his Bugatti role.
A little more than six months later, Winkelmann has announced what is almost certainly the most radical change in Lamborghini’s 58- year history. First, the entire range will have plug-in hybrid powertrains as soon as 2024. Secondly, the work is underway to create a fully electric fourth model line to be launched in the second half of the decade.
“We have decided to electrify all of our cars, all of our line-up, by the end of 2024,” he told Autoweekwhen we spoke to him by video link ahead of the announcement, “so the Urus, and next Huracan and Aventador will all be plug-in hybrids.”
Don’t panic; this isn’t going to come at the expense of the sound and fury Lamborghini is best known for. Indeed in the short term it will help protect it, especially in those parts of the world that are set to mandate at least partial electrification. Winkelmann confirmed to us that “the follow-up to the Aventador will still be V12, so the sound issue is not something we need to take care of because the engine will still be there, and it will still have the right sound.”
Company insiders have suggested the Huracan’s replacement will lose that car’s equally charismatic V10 engine, but will instead use a twin-turbocharged V8. Both new cars are set to have electrically powered front axles instead of mechanical all-wheel drive, together with hybrid assistance for their mid-mounted internal combustion engines turning their rear axles.
These aren’t eco specials, you’ll be unsurprised to hear, and hybridization won’t cut performance. Winkelmann told us all of the PHEVs will be quicker. “We will find opportunities to increase the performance,” he promised. In the Urus’ case that suggests a version of the V8-based, 690 hp powertrain that Porsche fits to the Cayenne Turbo S e-Hybrid, and certainly not the relatively puny hybridized V6 Bentley uses in the closely related Bentayga.
“All this is a big investment into the future of the company, and if we speak only about the plug-in hybrids we will spend more than €1.5bn,” Winkelmann said, “the biggest investment we have ever done in Lamborghini in such a short space of time.”
Beyond that, Lamborghini is already working on creating what will be the brand’s first EV.
“We want to have a new model line in the second half of the decade,” Winkelmann said, “and this will be our first fully electric model. We see this as being a two-door four seater, but we have not made up our minds yet because we still have some time to decide.”
This new model definitely won’t be an electric supercar. “In the last year we’ve seen cars come out that were not finding the acceptance of customers,” Winkelmann said, in what seemed to be a reference to the difficulties that both Pininfarina and Lotus have experienced in selling the Battista and Evija. “The acceptance of electric BEVs [in this part of the market] is not there yet in our opinion.”
But nor will it be an electric SUV to overlap with the Urus, rather something entirely different.
“It cannot cannibalize what we have today,” Winkelmann said, “but my dream is to have the best of two worlds, to try to have a car which is a four-seater two door like the GT cars of the ’50s and ’60s, … we had the Espada in the ’60s and this combined with higher seating, with more ground clearance – because this is the way of today – could be a perfect opportunity.”
Could Lamborghini ultimately join the technical partnership that is seeing Bugatti work with Croatian EV supercar maker Rimac? Winkelmann is head of Bugatti as well as Lamborghini after all – but the answer is cautious.
“Today we have set the opportunities for the decade to come,” he says, “for the three hybrids we are bringing to market before the end of 2024 the doors are closed and all the things are done – Rimac is not part of this game. For the future, never say never, let’s say we have a very open ear for everybody who wants to talk to us and we are very open in terms of looking into opportunities.”
Lamborghini is also supporting Porsche’s research into using carbon-neutral e-fuels, although Winkelmann admitted it is a longer-term project. But he confirmed that Lamborghini has no plans to continue producing combustion-only road cars beyond the arrival of the plug-in powertrains, even for those parts of the world where they could still be sold indefinitely.
“We will continue to build them for the motorsport activities of our Squadra Corsa, but we have not planned to build combustion engines only for homologated cars.”
So if you are lucky enough to be able to afford a Lamborghini, and want both new car smell and a non-electrified powertrain, the clock is ticking.
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