Automotive Legends and Heroes: Stephan Winkelman - East Valley Tribune: Business

Automotive Legends and Heroes: Stephan Winkelman

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Posted: Saturday, November 24, 2007 12:00 am | Updated: 6:07 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

His days are full of tough decisions. But arguably his toughest comes when it’s time to head home. Grab the keys for the brand-new Murciélago LP640? Or maybe the latest Gallardo Spyder? The baby blue one looks fun.

His days are full of tough decisions. But arguably his toughest comes when it’s time to head home. Grab the keys for the brand-new Murciélago LP640? Or maybe the latest Gallardo Spyder? The baby blue one looks fun.

“Actually, I drive a Gallardo Coupe. I live in downtown Bologna, in Italy; the streets are narrow and so is my garage. I love the car not only because it’s fast, but also because it’s compact,” says Stephan Winkelmann, the man with surely one of the best jobs in the world.

And what’s that?

He’s the boss at Lamborghini.

Behind the wheel of his Gallardo, Winkelmann could be straight out of central casting, playing the suave Italian executive living La Dolce Vita: the Good Life. In his early 40s, he’s 6' 2", rail-thin and movie-star elegant with his wavy dark hair, Cary Grant smile and Italian designer threads.

Born in Berlin, Germany, but raised in Rome, Italy, he was the perfect choice when Lamborghini’s parent company Volkswagen went looking for a new boss for its Italian supercar maker.

He had plenty of experience working for both German and Italian companies. Winkelmann began his career with Mercedes-Benz. He then spent 11 years working for the Italian auto giant Fiat before switching to Audi as head of its German operations.

“They wanted someone who understood both the German and Italian mentality. For me it was a dream come true, being able to run a company from every aspect, from product development, to manufacturing, to marketing.”

Since taking over the reins in January 2005, Winkelmann has wasted no time in making his mark.

Sales have soared to all-time records and there’s new and exciting product. Exciting? Is there any other kind of Lamborghini?

There’s mega-successful Gallardo Spyder as well as the more-powerful Murciélago model, called the LP640. The company is quite literally selling everything it can build, especially the new Reventon supercar that sold out before any of them were ever built.

And he created a tsunami of excitement when he unveiled a concept for a brand-new Miura two-seater to commemorate the 40th anniversary of this legendary 1960s Italian supercar.

“The reaction to the car was incredible. We had literally hundreds of people offering to give us big deposits to be one of the first to buy a production version.”

That figures.

So, with so many people clamoring for the car, Lamborghini is going to begin building a new Miura, right? Winkelmann gives Celebrity Car Magazine that Gary Grant smile, shrugs his shoulders, and in his best Italian-accented English says . . . no.

“We don’t want to ride the retro wave. Lamborghini has always been a trendsetter, with the original Miura, with the Countach, the Diablo, the Murélago, and the Gallardo. If we brought back the Miura, people would say that we had run out of ideas,” he says.

He also dismisses suggestions that Lamborghini might develop a new sport-utility vehicle as a successor to the thundering, V12-engined LM002 that it built — originally for the Italian army — between 1986 and ’93. After all, Lamborghini’s parent company, Volkswagen, has a great 4X4 platform that’s used for the Touareg, the Audi Q7 and the Porsche Cayenne. Again, Winkelmann shakes his head.

“We are a small company of 700 employees. We don’t have the money to invest in additional models. And for the time being, we want to stay on a small scale. We want to stay with our current model line, which is the youngest we have ever had, and the highest selling.

“For the first 40 years of Lamborghini, we sold no more than 250 cars a year. This year we will sell 2,000. Yet our aim is to always produce fewer cars than customers demand.”

But why does someone buy a Lamborghini, as opposed to a Ferrari or a Porsche? Winkelmann is quick to reply.

“It’s because our cars are more extreme. They also tend to be lower, wider and sharper. They have permanent four-wheel-drive. And they have a lot of power. Our latest Murciélago will offer 640 horsepower, 60 more than the current model.

“But it is something else. When you drive a Lamborghini, people look at you in a different way. You become the center of attention.”

Celebrity Car is produced by Wheelbase Communications in conjunction with quarterly publication Celebrity Car Magazine and the

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