Porsche Cayenne inspires Lamborghini to develop SUVs

Wednesday 08 February 2012, 19:50 PM by

Lamborghini, the supercar brand owned by Germany's Volkswagen, is looking to diversify its portfolio with a car that will be a far cry from its usual low-slung vehicles – a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV). Reportedly, the Italian manufacturer will release a statement regarding this paradigm shift at this year's Beijing auto show and hopes to roll it out by 2016. Auto enthusiasts can even see the concept version of the model as the rendition will be displayed at the same auto show in the Chinese capital.

The company has been inspired by the success of Porsche Cayenne in the exponentially-growing luxury 4X4 segment. However, such a car may end up hurting the sentiments of some purists who would prefer a closer to the road Aventador over an off-roader any day. Porsche's coffers swelled since it rolled out Cayenne more than 10 years ago, selling 59000 units in 2011. The high performance Turbo edition of the Cayenne costs a steep € 1,21,000.

Porsche Cayenne inspires Lamborghini to develop SUVs | CarTrade.com
Porsche Cayenne inspires Lamborghini to develop SUVs

According to Andrew Romanowski, president of the biggest Lamborghini owners' club in the world, "An SUV could be cool, but it would have to be the fastest on the planet and look extreme. If it turned out like a run-of-the-mill BMW X5, it would be a betrayal. People would be very upset." He did warn that the company must keep the number of cars in check in order to maintain the exclusivity of the brand even if the new car proves to be popular.

Last year, Bentley, the British brand owned by VW, had revealed its preliminary plans of producing a SUV of its own. These upcoming off-roaders seem to be part of a strategy to raise the sales of Lamborghini as well as Bentley. Both the car makers would develop high end SUVs equipped with Four Wheel Drive (FWD) mechanism for those who want a truly powerful car with all luxury features.

Christoph Stuermer, the Research Director of IHS Automotive, a firm based in Frankfurt, commented, "Porsche proved that it works, to the industry's great surprise, and now everyone is flocking in." According to his firm, the market for luxury SUVs would grow by 20, 30 and 50 per cent in Western Europe, US and China, respectively.

This change in strategy seems to be adopted by many high end car makers these days. Maserati, Fiat's supercar brand, showcased its first SUV last month. Named Kubang, the car will be produced at Detroit, US rather than the company's factory in Italy.

Stephan Winkelmann, Chief Executive Officer of Lamborghini, refused to divulge details about the model. However, he did say, "On the one hand you need to have a pure, clearly positioned brand. On the other hand it would be good to enter a new segment that brings higher volumes and more stability. It doesn't necessarily dilute the brand if you sell a bit more."

Lamborghini has been posting losses since 2009, though its sales figures number rose by 23 per cent in 2011, amounting to 1,602 units. The German owner of the brand is expected whether it will produce the Bentley and Lamborghini SUVs in the next few months. This Italian brand will be dropping its planned 4-door sedan that was inspired by the 2008 Estoque show car in favour of the upcoming SUV.

New 4X4 SUVs from the stables of Lamborghini and Bentley will have components and motors that are present in cars of brands like VW, Audi and Porsche. VW had acquired Porsche in 2009 and has plans to its business within its own ambit.

The design theme of the new Lamborghini SUV could acknowledge the brand's last step into the segment. The supercar maker had rolled out an off-roader in 1986, which was heavily inspired from a long-forgotten military vehicle design. However, the car, which earned the moniker Rambo Lambo, was discontinued in 1993 due to low sales volumes.

Martin Winterkorn, the head of VW, has no qualms about assembling Audi powertrains, chassis, electronics and other components in the upcoming high end SUV models. Audi is the main luxury car maker of the company and its R8 sports car and Gallardo, Lamborghini's base model, already have the 5.2 L v 10 engine as well as a few on-board systems in common. Buyers agree that using VW components and engines in high end cars like Gallardo is beneficial for the vehicle. According to Romanowski, "It's more reliable than Lamborghinis ever were before, and everyone knows that's because of Audi."

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