Lamborghini may face greater pressure to introduce an SUV in the near future as the super sports car segment continues to crowd.
The Audi-owned Italian exotic car builder currently offers two models: the V12-powered Aventador and the V10-powered Huracan, which it launched last year as a replacement to the Gallardo. Last year, the company sold 2,112 cars in a segment with a direct relationship to economic performance that tends to have an annual global volume of roughly 30,000 vehicles.
Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann said he doesn’t foresee any major growth in the segment his company relies on despite a crowding of more models from a greater number of brands competing for market share. Currently Ferrari limits its annual production to 7,000 cars, but that could change after it becomes a publicly traded company later this year.
“Once Ferrari initiates its IPO, its shareholder responsibility will be more directly tied to its independent performance; as part of FCA, the division is also expected to deliver shareholder value, though the results are aggregated into the total company,” IIHS analyst Stephanie Brinley said.
Though there will be a variety of ways to return value to its shareholders, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne–who currently heads the company–probably has one strategy earmarked.
“Sergio Marchionne will still be involved and has hinted about a new strategy that does involve increasing volume—but that increase is likely to be pure Ferrari product more so than dramatic expansion of the model range,” Brinley said. “And there is probably demand for a few more Ferraris.“
But those changes will probably take shape slowly. “The IPO is expected to be structured in such a way that the Agnelli family will remain in control. Because that is the expected outcome, it is less likely that drastic changes will occur at the request of other shareholders” Brinley said.
In a segment as tight as super sports cars, a fifth Ferrari could pose challenges to Lamborghini as it tries to maintain or even increase its market share. Currently the base price for the Húracan is $241,945 and $393,695 for the Aventador.
Over the next five years, IIHS forecasts that Lamborghini will increase its global volume from the roughly 2,000 cars it sold last year by 75 percent to 3,500. The firm also expects Ferrari to ramp up the number of cars it sells by 1,100 to 8,100.
For Lamborghini, that will almost certainly call for a third nameplate.
“If you have a third model, you can do more,” he said. “If we would do a third model, we would never do another super sports car. We will step out of [that segment] and we would do an SUV. This is what we’re working on.”
In the meantime, Ferrari is migrating its V8 powertrains to use turbocharging and its V12s to hybridization to prepare for regulatory challenges that will call for further decreases in vehicle emissions. Lamborghini is planning a less radical approach.
“We reduced emissions by more than 20 percent in the last year, so we’re working hard on it,” Winkelmann said. Both of Lamborghini’s current products use big, naturally aspirated engines and in the near term, that isn’t going to change although turbocharging could be on the table in the future. But that isn’t the only way Lamborghini can satisfy regulatory requirements. “You pay, or you go under the wing of the [Volkswagen Group] or you go for exemptions” he said, citing Lamborghini’s especially low sales volume. That could change if the company introduces an SUV.
“We have no decision so far. This is one of the things that could increase the volumes, but always on a level that is not creating high visibility,” he said.
If the project gets a green light, it will usher in Lamborhini’s first-ever alternative fuel vehicle.
“If we have approval for an SUV, that would be the appropriate place for a PHEV,” Lamborghini R&D boss Maurizio Reggiani said during an interview at the Geneva Motor Show in March. If Ferrari chooses to increase its annual volume, it could put pressure on Lamborghini to find new sources of volume and a plug-in hybrid could also serve to ease the burden that future emissions rules will impose.