As Stefano Domenicali – chairman and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini – completed three years at his job, we caught up with him on the sidelines of the Cartier ‘Travel With Style’ Concours d’Elegance, where Domenicali was one of the judges
There’s unleaded petrol running through 54-year old Stefano Domenicali’s veins. After all, he was born in Imola, the Italian town famous for the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, where the San Marino Grand Prix was held. Imola is also close to Bologna and Modena – the epicentre of all that is beautiful and powerful in the world of automobiles. It, therefore, seemed inevitable that Domenicali, after completing his education, would start his professional career with Ferrari. His tenure with the Prancing Horse saw him head the Direzione Sportiva F1 and in 2008, he became Team Principal of Scuderia Ferrari F1 – a post arguably more important than running the country. Perhaps he should have stood for elections, for under his leadership, Ferrari won a massive 14 titles in the F1 Constructors’ and Drivers’ World Championships.
In November 2014, the Volkswagen Group hired Domenicali and made him Vice President – New Business Initiatives at Audi AG. Not too long after that, in March 2016, he returned to Italy, to Sant’Agata Bolognese, in his current designation.
How has the journey with Lamborghini been so far?
I started almost three years ago; it seems like yesterday! I don’t want to say ‘I’, I want to say ‘we’. We did a lot of things together and we are very happy because we do believe that we are taking the brand and the products to the next level. More and more, we hear talk about mobility instead of loving cars, while we represent the car that you have to love. Because if you think that Lamborghini is a mobility device, then there is an issue. Therefore, what I see and what we clearly understand, is that there is in this moment still a lot of room for passion and for an aspirational product like Lamborghini. Therefore, despite people thinking differently, the reason for our success is that we are working extremely well making sure that this aspirational approach versus brand and cars is higher than ever. That’s why going back, I would say that we have a very interesting portfolio to offer: two supersport cars, motors plus derivatives, and one super SUV that opens up a new way of looking at Lamborghini without changing the approach of the car.
How do you see the next three years unfolding at Lamborghini?
I would say that it is very positive. We do not have to exceed the value of our brand. With our portfolio and the number of markets in which we are present, the number of cars that we should sell this year should represent the area where we should stay focussed to stabilise our growth. When there are too many cars in the market, the value would go down. So we don’t push for volumes, that is not our strategy and it will not be our strategy. We should consider ourselves stable given the actual conditions, with the actual markets, at around 8,000 cars, more or less. Of course, new models like the Urus have given us a chance to open up new markets. For example in India, the response has been extraordinary. In the niche of the super sports car segment, we are so far the best brand, and it is incredibly rewarding. The Urus will help the brand to build up to something significantly stronger in the next couple of years.
How do you propose to reach out to the young generation?
It is connected to the strategy we were focussing on in the last couple of years. If you look at the portfolio of our cars, if you look at the profile of our customers, they are very young. They see the effect that our brand has; it is connected to a very sporty, cool and dynamic way of living, with a lot of personalities and therefore, we need to communicate with that. We did an incredible jump on social media, in terms of presence. We are now connecting our profile with video gaming, with movies, with music.
That’s a difficult balance. Not have the volumes too high, yet be more popular, more accessible, more approachable…
We are an inclusive brand but very exclusive. We are aspirational; so with regards to volumes, we don’t want to open up, in that respect. The inclusiveness is connected to the way that you perceive the brand, but the brand has to be exclusive. You want to be perceived as unique when you are in the Lamborghini family. The experience that we are offering to our customers is very inclusive in that respect – activities, driving experiences, factory visits.
We hear the Urus has opened new markets and new segments for you, with people coming from other brands.
The Urus effect is extraordinary because it is taking Lamborghini to a different dimension that was not there before. In India, more than half of the cars would be Urus. It is a new way of living Lamborghini. The car is a clear Lamborghini, but you can use it on a daily basis, with friends, with family. You can use it on difficult streets, bad roads, on gravel or on the sand. And the good thing is that it is a four- or five-seater. There is also the possibility that since these are new customers coming into Lamborghini, they can now appreciate what a real super sports car is. So it’s another way for them to get into the super sports car segment because that’s really our DNA and we will not forget about it. We will not focus only on SUVs.
Is there something more you can do with motorsports to acquire more customers, make them experience Lamborghini?
I think it is a way to give a different kind of experience to our customers. We are very strong today in the Super Trofeo offering because it’s a car that you can really use during the weekend of racing to have fun, enjoy and have a sporting experience. It is a pillar of our brand, but we were not born from motorsport. Lamborghini was born to make GT cars, therefore that’s the DNA of the brand. That dimension is helping to keep the level of experience, the level of competitiveness high, but of course, this is not where we belong. For example this year, we are the only brand in the history of the 24 Hours of Daytona to win in GT3 for the second time in a row. It shows that our cars have great potential.
What do you tell your designers and your engineers? How do you push them to the next level?
The push is connected to two things: first, always look ahead while looking behind. Means the DNA of the brand has to be respected by having the models that created our history in the line of the future. And this is happening, because you will find in the new models’ lines from the cars that were part of our history. Secondly, understand the trends the young generation are interested in. This is the philosophy for my people while preparing projects for the future.
How soon will it be for a hybrid Lamborghini?
It would be for sure because that’s the next step that is needed, but I would say that we will be ready only when we want to put it in the market. Today, we are solid as a rock in terms of what we offer, we know what our customer wants, so it would be wrong to anticipate earlier because we will dilute the value of what we have created so far. It will happen 100 per cent with both Urus and our super sports cars, but for sure, not next year.