Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. has been responsible for some of the most outrageous and extra-ordinary Italian supercars over the past 53 years. It was never part of any revolution that shook the world. It stuck to its ethos that their cars should be the bedroom pin-up poster of every child. But as times have progressed, the company has realised that being mad and silly in their designs is not the way in the future. There should be enough sales to run the company. So this is a story of a company who was like a raging bull in the segment in the past and now has been tamed for the present times.
History of Ferruccio Lamborghini
Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. was founded by a man called Ferrucio Lamborghini in 1963. Since a child, he was obsessed with farming machinery rather than the farming itself. He used to service the equipment like the tractors every month. His interest in mechanics gave him the boost to study at the Fratelli Taddia technical institute near Bologna. After that he joined the Royal Air Force during the Second World War as a mechanic, barring his knowledge in the field. He later became the supervisor of the vehicle maintenance unit. Eventually he was captured by the British just near the end of the War and was released a year later. After the War ended, he opened his small garage just outside Bologna, where he used his mechanical intellect to modify a small Fiat Topolino to go racing. He entered with that car in the 1948 Mille Miglia and eventually retired after 1100 km when he ran the car along the side of a restaurant in Turin. From this he lost his enthusiasm in every form of motorsport.
2 years after the War ended, Lamborghini realised that Italy was devoted for agricultural and industrial revitalisation. Using some bits from the marine engines and using differentials from the Azienda Recupero Alienazione Residuati (ARAR) centres, he started to produce the “Carioca” series of tractors which were based on the Morris trucks with 6 cylinder petrol engines. At the time, petrol was very expensive to fill up. So he added his own fuel atomiser, which would help to start the engine with petrol and then be switched to the cheaper diesel fuel. The Carioca range was a success for Lamborghini. Barring on that success, he started Lamborghini Trattori in 1948.
The increasing success of Lamborghini Trattori helped him for his love of fast cars. From the small Fiats he tinkered during his youth, to owning Alfa Romeos and Lancias during the 50’s, Ferrucio had the collection he wanted. He also owned a Jaguar E-Type and 2 Maserati 3500 GT’s.
The Feud with Ferrari
In 1958, Ferruccio Lamborghini had travelled to Maranello to buy a Ferrari 250 GT (a 2 seater coupe, designed by Pininfarina), which was the most famous car at the time. He then went on to buy a Scaglietti designed 250 SWB Berlinetta and a 250 GT 2+2 four seater. He thought that these cars were good, but they were just race cars that were a little detuned and softened for the road. He also felt that the interiors felt a little spartan, featureless and not very well-built. Lamborghini discovered that the Ferrari which he had was equipped with an inferior clutch. This required continuous trips to Maranello for the same reason. The Ferrari technicians secretly did the work on the car away for many hours. This was quite an annoying thing to see for Ferruccio. He was also not satisfied with Ferrari’s after sales service, which he perceived to be below the standards. Enzo Ferrari got to know about Ferruccio’s moaning about the way his cars were made. But Enzo was firm on his pride that Ferrari made race cars for the road and not road cars for the race track. After successfully tuning one of his personal Ferrari 250 GTs to outperform the benchmark Ferrari models on the race track, Lamborghini gained the experience to start a new automobile manufacturing business of his own, which aimed to create the perfect grand tourer that he felt no one could build for him. Lamborghini almost had the belief in his mind that a grand tourer should have the qualities that were missing in Ferrari’s machines, namely high performance without compromising tractability, ride quality, and interior design and quality. A clever businessman, Lamborghini also knew that he could literally triple the profits if the components used in his unused tractors were installed in a high-performance exotic car instead. Thus began the journey of Lamborghini’s urge to beat Ferrari and exact his revenge. This feud is still considered to be the turning point in Lamborghini’s history.
Past Owners of Automobili Lamborghini
1) Ferruccio Lamborghini (1963-1972)
In this period, Ferruccio launched the 350 GT, the first Lamborghini road car ever. The car was an instant success, with 120 cars being sold in the 2 years of production. Then he launched the 400 GT 2+2, a car which was an improvement over the 350 GT. It had a bigger engine and better drivability. The 400 GT lasted for 4 years, from 1965 to 1968. After the 400 GT, the Islero was launched. It was a four-seater based on the 400 GT. Lamborghini thought that the car would be a business hit. But it wasn’t to be. It crashed in the sales market with only 125 cars sold between 1968 and 1969. During this time, there was development of a new car behind closed doors and behind Ferruccio’s back. It was meant to be a racing car for the road. It would have the perfect balanced layout, with the engine in the middle to aid weight distribution and increase the handling capabilities. When this new car was showed to Ferruccio and his team, he was slightly apprehended with the concept which was against the ethos of Lamborghini. But, in the end, the R&D team got the nod. The car was named the Miura (earlier the P400) and the first prototype was launched at the Turin Auto Show in 1965. The team thought that this car would just be a marketing tool to increase the sales. The crowd loved this new car, which made Lamborghini change his mind completely. The car was put into production in 1967. During this time, the company was blooming with new recruits, money coming in and cars going out. Lamborghini added new versions of the Miura in 1968, named the P400 S and the Roadster and the Espada was added to the lineup along with the Miura and the Islero in 1969. However, the functioning was not smooth. Lamborghini faced with union working force trouble, in which the workers in the machine shop and the fabrication areas were taking one to two hour stoppages during their shift because of the strained relations between the metal workers and the Italian motor industry. But the production went on with Lamborghini’s addition. All the cars in the lineup received power updates, along the Espada receiving comfort updates. The Islero was replaced with the Jarama, a shortened version of the Espada 2+2.
At this time, the R&D team were developing a new car from scratch which would carry absolutely nothing from the other cars that Lamborghini made. It had new rivals targeted like the Ferrari Dino 246GT and the Porsche 911. The car that they came up with was called the Urraco. It had various flavours of the V8 engine, but was a mid-engined 2+2. There was the P200, the P250 and the P300. All of them were spruced up versions of the earlier variant. The car was launched along the Jarama at the 1970 Turin Motor Show. Along with the Urraco, the team were desperate to replace the aging Miura, which was in production for almost 6 years. They made slight improvements to the chassis, the engine and the styling to ensure with Ferruccio’s specifications. The prototype was launched at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show along with the last version of the Miura, called the P400 SuperVeloce.
By 1972, the company was getting out of control of Ferruccio’s hands. So he decided to sell the company that he had founded. There were many reasons for this to happen. The first reason was the slow development of the company. They were getting late in their schedule to launch the production version of the LP500. The second reason was the high development costs that Lamborghini was not able to afford because he lost his backbone tractor business the year before. These were the reasons why Lamborghini decided to sell the business. Happily for Lamborghini, a friend of his, Georges-Henri Rossetti, came to his rescue and he bought 51% of the business. The remaining percentage stayed with Ferruccio himself.
2) Georges-Henri Rossetti & Rene Leimer (1973-1977)
The oil crisis in 1973 was a big blow to Lamborghini’s business. This was the time during which Lamborghini had just changed owners. The production of high performance cars reduced drastically, because the people wanted more fuel-efficient modes of transportation and not gas-guzzling supercars. A year later, Ferruccio sold the remaining stocks to Rene Leimer, a friend of Georges-Henri Rossetti. During this time, the duo launched the production version of the LP500, which was later renamed as the Countach LP400, because of the smaller 4.0 litre V12 engine. Also the Urraco was replaced by the Silhouette in 1976, with the bigger 3.0 litre V8. The Silhouette was a sales flop because of it’s poor reliability, build quality and ergonomics. Also the car was not easily importable and as a reason of this, only 54 cars were produced. The Countach was also hampered because of this and sales reduced drastically. At the 1977 Geneva Motor Show, Lamborghini unveiled their first ever prototype military vehicle for the military. They named it the “Cheetah”. It was powered by a rear-mounted V8 engine from Chrysler. However, the only prototype was not destroyed during testing as rumoured, but performed poorly and as such lost the contract. The resources used to develop the Cheetah were diverted from the M1 which ultimately led to the cancellation of the contract from BMW. As the years went by, the company lost control again under the Swiss owners. The duo sold the company rights in 1977 and the company entered bankruptcy a year later and was later placed under liquidation by the Italian judges in 1980.
3) Jean-Claude & Patrick Mimran (1980-1987)-
When the Lamborghini business was placed under liquidation in 1980, the Italian courts handled the company. But when they decided that it was time to give the company a new lease of life, they turned to two Swiss brothers named, Jean-Claude and Patrick Mimran. The brothers had a successful food business and had a love of sports cars. They were the ideal choice for the revival. The brothers also changed the name from “Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.” to “Nuova Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini SpA”, which was formed in January 1981. From that time onwards the real work began. The first thing that the brothers did was to replace the flop Silhouette with the Jalpa. The Jalpa had a bigger 3.5 litre V8 as compared to the Silhouette’s 3 litre V8. It was a big sales hit, with it becoming a more affordable and liveable version of the Countach. The Countach was now made available in the US which was not done when Rossetti and Leimer were the owners. And also the LP500 S version was launched in 1982 along with this. By 1984, the company was officially in the hands of the Mimran brothers. The new owners began a comprehensive restructuring programme, injecting large amounts of capital into the floundering automaker. The Sant’Agata facilities were rehabilitated, and a worldwide hiring campaign to find new engineering and design talent began in earnest. The immediate results of the investment were good. A Countach Quattrovalvole, producing 455 PS (335 kW; 449 hp), was released in 1984; further work on the failed Cheetah project resulted in the release of the Lamborghini LM002 SUV in 1986. Lamborghini was also looking forward in its vision for the future, with the Countach Evoluzione, a Countach made completely from a new composite at the time called carbon-fibre. But as with Rossetti & Leimer, the funding that they had was not enough to completely revive the company. On the contrary, The Mimran brothers were in talks with other car manufacturers about the purchasing of the Lamborghini brand. They were the only owners of Lamborghini who managed to make a profit during their ownership.
4) Chrysler Co-Operation (1987-1993)-
Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca had an interest in the Lamborghini business when he heard the news of Lamborghini looking for a new owner. So in 1987, he decided to buy the company from the Mimran brothers at exactly the same amount of money that they paid to Rosetti & Leimer six years ago, which was $25.2 million (roughly). Iacocca, who had previously orchestrated a near-miraculous turnaround of Chrysler after the company nearly fell into bankruptcy, carried out his decision to purchase Lamborghini with no challenges from the board of directors. Many executives from Chrysler were appointed in the board of directors, along with some key members of Lamborghini. Chrysler invested a lot in the Lamborghini revival ($50 million to be exact). They also decided that Lamborghini would help them in the development of their new sports car which would rival the Ferrari 328. The body and chassis would be American and the powertrain would be Italian.
During Chrysler’s ownership, Lamborghini finally decided to enter into Formula 1 as an engine supplier. The company was named Lamborghini Engineering S.p.A., which received an initial budget of $5 million. They also recruited someone from the Ferrari F1 team to handle the business. They designed and engineered a 3.5 litre V12, which was in check with the regulations at the time. But this venture was an out & out failure with all the teams who were supplied by Lamborghini failed to score points.
During this time, Lamborghini were developing a new car to replace the aging Countach. It was called as the Diablo. The Diablo’s original design had been penned by Marcello Gandini, the veteran who had penned the exterior appearances of the Miura and the Countach while working for coachbuilder Bertone. However, the Chrysler board was not amazed with the work that Gandini did. And so they commissioned their own team of designers to make the third extensive design change to the car, smoothing out all the trademark sharp edges and corners of Gandini’s original design. However, Gandini wasn’t too pleased with the finished product. The Diablo had been intended for release in time for September 1988. This was the year of their 25th anniversary. When it was final that this mark would be missed, a final version of the Countach was rushed into production instead. Lamborghini was not at all happy with Chrysler’s interference in the development of the Diablo.
In April 1988, the Bertone Genesis, a V12-powered, Lamborghini-branded vehicle looking like a minivan was shown at the Turin Motor Show. The car was pretty unusual for Lamborghini’s customers. Even though it was made to account for the public reactions, the car was abandoned almost immediately. It was a misfit in both their product ranges. The Genesis had been commissioned alongside the new “baby Lambo” project. This car was going to replace the Jalpa and occupying the then-empty space below the Diablo in Lamborghini’s lineup. The project had been allocated a $25 million budget, with the prospect of selling more than 2,000 cars per year.
The Diablo was released to the public on 21 January 1990, at an event at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. The Diablo was then, the fastest production car in the world. Because of this, the sales charts were through the roof and Lamborghini started to earn a decent profit. The company’s U.S. presence had previously consisted of a loosely affiliated and disorganized private dealer network. With Chrysler as the owners, they established an efficient franchise with full service and spare parts support. The company also started to develop and market its V12 engines for racing powerboats. Profits went past the $1 million mark in 1991, and Lamborghini enjoyed a successful and remained positive in the market.
The uptick in fortunes was to be short however. In 1992, the once high sales crashed drastically. This was because the $239,000 Diablo proved to be inaccessible to American enthusiasts. With Lamborghini losing money by the bucket loads, Chrysler decided that Lamborghini was no longer producing enough cars to justify the company’s investment. And thus, in 1993, Chrysler sold the company completely.
5) MegaTech (1994-1997)-
Chrysler was determined to shake off Lamborghini from it’s backs and was looking for a new owner. They found it in a holding company called MegaTech. The company was enrolled in Bermuda and owned as a whole by Indonesian conglomerate SEDTCO Private Limited, headed by businessmen Setiawan Djody and Tommy Suharto, the youngest son of then-Indonesian President Suharto. By February 1994, after a deal of $40 million, Lamborghini had changed ownership. MegaTech took control over the automaker and its race engine factory along with the American dealer network, Lamborghini USA. The first thing that they did was to appoint Michael J. Kimberly, formerly of Lotus, Jaguar and executive vice-president of General Motors, as president and managing director. After reviewing the entire Lamborghini operation, he came to the conclusion that the company needed to expand its model range from more than just one or two models, and provide a car which could easily be accessed by American car enthusiasts. He also instrumented a bold new marketing plan in order to increase awareness of Lamborghini’s heritage and culture. In 1995, Lamborghini produced a hit, when the Diablo was updated to the top-end SuperVeloce model. But in 1995, along with the increase in cars produced, the company was getting reconstructed, with Tommy Suharto’s V’Power Corporation having a 60% share in the company, whereas MyCom Public Limited, a Malaysian company managed by Jeff Yap, holding the other 40%. Despite the increase in sales, Lamborghini were still facing with losses every time. So in November 1996, they hired Vittorio di Capua as President and CEO of the company. This decision was made with the hope that the veteran, who had more than 40 years working at auto giant Fiat S.p.A., could finally make the sports car maker earn a profit again. Di Capua immediately started cost-cutting measures by firing a number of company executives and consultants and also overhauling production in order to achieve a 50 percent gain in production. In 1997, Lamborghini finally passed its break-even point. They sold an incredible 209 Diablos. That was thirteen more cars produced than it needed in order to be profitable. Di Capua also leveraged the Lamborghini name and identity, implementing aggressive merchandising and licensing deals. Development of the “baby Lambo” finally began, moving forward with a $100 million budget. However, the financial crisis that hit all of Asia in July 1997 gave way for Lamborghini to change owners again after just 3 years with Indonesian owners.
6) Audi A.G. (1998-present)-
During 1997 & 1998, Volkswagen AG were on a roll buying absolutely every lost company they could find along with the companies that were in financial troutle. These included Bugatti, Bentley and also Lamborghini. Volkswagen AG subsidiary, Audi AG acquired Lamborghini in September 1998 for roughly $110 million. Audi thought that Lamborghini could benefit from Lamborghini’s technical expertise to improve the sporty character of Audi’s models. the troubled Italian automaker was reorganized, becoming restructured into a holding company, Lamborghini Holding S.p.A., with Audi president Franz-Josef Paefgen as its chairman. Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. became a subsidiary of the holding company, allowing it to focus specifically on designing and building cars while separate interests took care of the company’s licensing deals and marine engine manufacturing. Vittorio Di Capua originally remained in charge, but eventually resigned in June 1999. He was replaced by Giuseppe Greco, another industry veteran with experience at Fiat, Alfa Romeo, and Ferrari. The Diablo’s final evolution, the GT, was released, but not exported to the U.S., its low-volume production making it uneconomical to go through the process of gaining emissions and crashworthiness approval. During the Diablo’s 11-year series production run, Lamborghini produced 2,900 examples. At this time, Audi felt that it was time for a replacement for the Diablo. They played a huge part in the design and development of the car, so much so that Audi hired Luc Donckerwolke, a Belgian designer, to design the new car. This car would eventually shape the company that we know and love today. So to demonstrate that, Lamborghini named the car after something that inspired Ferruccio a lot. They decided to name the car the Murcielago. Under Audi, Lamborghini was the at its strongest as well as stable that it couldn’t be in the last 30 years. In 2003, Lamborghini finally launched the new “baby Lambo” called the Gallardo. This car was in development well before Audi owned the company. It was made to be a better seller as compared to the Murcielago. It was also the first Lamborghini to feature a V10 engine. Through the years, Lamborghini made significant updates to the Murcielago and Gallardo. This included the Roadster versions of both cars, a Murcielago LP640, a bigger and badder update to the Murcielago and the Gallardo LP560-4, a big update with a bigger engine to the Gallardo. As with the 1973 oil crisis, the financial crisis in 2008 was a big blow for the sales record of the company. People were not intrigued to buy high end super carsIn 2009, Lamborghini launched the final encore to the Murcielago lineup. It was called the LP670-4 SuperVeloce. It was considered to be the most powerful car Lamborghini ever made. Then in 2010, Lamborghini launched the Reventon, a limited edition car based on the Murcielago. Lamborghini made 4100 Murcielagos in its 12 year life span. It was replaced by the Aventador in March 2011. It was a brand new car from the ground up. It had a new engine, even though it had the same displacement as the Murcielago. It was the first car to be designed by computers with keeping the spirit of the company intact. After 2010, the company launched various limited edition models based on the lineup of cars at the time. These included the launch of the Sesto Elemento in 2012, a car made entirely of carbon and plastic with Gallardo running gear. Also they launched the Veneno in 2013. It was a limited edition car based on the Aventador with very mental styling. They made just 4 cars and later launched the Roadster version of it. Until now, the Gallardo has been the best selling Lamborghini in it’s entire history with more than 14,000 units being sold. The Gallardo was removed from the lineup in late 2013. It was replaced by the Huracan LP610-4 in early 2014. It was a far cry from the Gallardo which was simple in it’s design. This car changed the entire design language for the company. The Huracan was all about angular lines and focused more on aerodynamics. In 2015, the Huracán range expanded with several new models. First was the Spyder. It was engineered to deflect the air and join with the sky. Along with the Spyder, the LP 580-2 version was launched. This was conceived and produced with a view to turn a highly advanced vehicle into the purest example of “driving pleasure.” 2015 was also the year of the Aventador, which saw two new breathtaking versions being unveiled. First was the Aventador SV. It was developed as the Lamborghini with the sportiest DNA of any other Lamborghini on sale, and the Aventador SV Roadster. This combined high performance of the SV Coupe along with the elegance and open-top thrills of a Roadster. In 2016 the Huracán Avio was launched. It was a special edition which was inspired by aeronautics. This also marked the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Ferruccio Lamborghini. It’s in his honour that Lamborghini released the Centenario, a true masterpiece of perfection which blended innovative design and excellent performance in a limited-edition super sports car that has already become the object of the desire for all the world’s collectors. Lamborghini launched a new more hardcore version of the Huracan, called the Huracan Performante in 2017. This was the first car which was helmed by Stefano Domencalli, the ex-Ferrari F1 team principal. It has set the record along the Nürburgring Nordschliefe with a time of 6 min 52.01 sec. They also launched a revised version of the Aventador, called the Aventador S. A Roadster version also followed soon after. Along with this, Lamborghini invented a new segment for SUV’s called super SUV with the launch of the Urus in late 2017.
So as we all have read about, Lamborghini has been the most developed under Audi that it couldn’t be with all the other owners that the company has been owned by.