Lamborghini Seeks Reinvention With Urus and Gallardo Successor

  on August 31 2012 11:38 AM

Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. will be phasing out its Gallardo model by 2014 and will replace it with an as-yet-unannounced new car, and the company may take the opportunity of designing a new vehicle to undergo a subtle reinvention.

Lamborghini, a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG (Frankfurt: VOW), has said that it will replace the venerable Gallardo with a successor vehicle in 2014, probably called either the Huracán or Deimos, according to Car and Driver. While the Gallardo has been Lamborghini's most successful model ever, it has reached the end of its days, and the marque has decided it's time for a refresh. The new model will do away with many of the idiosyncrasies of the Gallardo.

Whereas the Gallardo has had a string of special editions, light-weight versions, convertibles, light-weight convertibles, four-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive in every possible combination, the new vehicle will likely just come in a couple of different flavors, according to Car and Driver. Their estimation is that there will be no more four-wheel-drive convertible Lamborghinis and that only the coupe will have an available super-light "Superleggera" version.

All of this points to an overall simplification at Lamborghini and a subtle pivot away from making ridiculous Italian supercars that 10-year-old boys think are cool (and automotive journalists), to making cars that the graying hedge-fund managers who can actually afford them want to buy. The Lamborghini "Urus" SUV concept will likely see the light of day in 2015 and seems to be a tacit acknowledgement that Lamborghini needs a higher-volume vehicle.

Similarly, Lamborghini has stopped selling manual-transmission vehicles, largely because most people with the exception of purists don't want to buy them. By moving away from the manual transmission and the alphabet soup of Gallardo models and introducing an SUV, Lamborghini is making the brand more accessible to casual drivers. That's not to say that Lamborghinis won't be exceptional performance cars, but the company does seem to be operating under the assumption that something needs to change in the formula.

In fact, Lamborghini seems to be embarking on a major reinvention, moving the brand away from the example set by its other Volkswagen stablemate, the Audi R8, and toward a more unique Ferrari competitor. "We have to stop thinking of the Gallardo in terms of the Audi R8," Audi, Lamborghini and Ducati Development Chief Wolfgang Durheimer told Motor Trend. "Lamborghini will now concentrate on Ferrari in terms of performance and handling."

Durheimer actually told the Lamborghini development team to go out and buy a Ferrari 458 so that they could get to know the competition better. Part of the push to compete with Ferrari may come from the fact that while Lamborghini builds incredibly fast cars, like the recently released Aventador, they're not known for being particularly comfortable or driver friendly, a marked difference from many of Ferrari's recent offerings, like the 458.

Lamborghini's discontinuation of the Gallardo line in favor of a more Ferrari-like vehicle, the shift away from manual transmissions, the introduction of the Urus SUV concept and the decision to limit the number of different versions of the new car all point to a company striving to simplify its offerings and calibrate them for saleability rather than simply for speed on the track. The introduction of the Urus SUV concept is reminiscent of Porsche Automobil's Cayenne SUV, which has become its highest-volume car, and which many Porsche enthusiasts say has eroded the personality and identity of the German sports car brand. Incidentally, Porsche, like Lamborghini, is a subsidiary of Volkswagen.

Volkswagen AG (Frankfurt: VOW) shares rose half a percent to €129.50 ($162.93) Friday morning.

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