The pearl-encrusted leather armband, fashionably knotted tie and elegant suit show right away that Stephan Winkelmann is not a banker. Since 2005, he has been at the helm of the Audi subsidiary, Lamborghini, in Sant’Agata, a small town near Bologna, Italy. In an interview with Handelsblatt correspondent Katharina Kort, Mr. Winkelmann talked about the brand’s image problems, the prospects of hybrid technology in the sports car segment – and the Lamborghini he would never produce.
Mr. Winkelmann, image is enormously important for sports cars. How has that changed in your time?
Much has happened with the brand and the company. We have redefined ourselves since the beginning of the millennium and the beginning of collaboration in the company. The brand was all over the place; it was not really set at the end of the 1990s. Because of numerous changes in ownership, the company was no longer viable for the future. Also, the brand message was uncompromising and extreme. Today, the brand is visionary, cutting-edge and, hence, revolutionary and purist.
For a long time, Lamborghini had an image problem in Germany.
The positioning is harder for Germany than other important markets, but the image has changed there, as well. The customer base has changed with our new marketing image. For example, there are hardly any cars today that customers take additional measures to fine-tune after buying. I know many of our customers personally, and many are businessmen, doctors and lawyers. They tend to be self-confident and style-conscious people, but they have little in common with the old image.
When you speak of purist, cutting-edge and visionary, what exactly do you mean?
Purist primarily refers to the fast track from concept to finished model. Cutting-edge refers to technology that is supposed to be, like the cars, ahead of its time and, therefore, visionary.