Lamborghini CEO: SUV cool enough for us

@PeterDrivesApril 23, 2012: 5:48 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Lamborghini could have made a four door sedan instead of an SUV, but that wouldn't have been cool enough, said the Italian automaker's chief executive in a telephone interview from Beijing, where the Urus SUV concept vehicle was being unveiled.

Sedans are "less emotional" than SUV's, Stephan Winkelmann said and, therefore not as good a fit for the maker of extreme performance vehicles. "What we want to build is a real Lamborghini in any market segment we enter," he said.

Still, Lamborghini also wants to create a vehicle that can be used for more than just occasional high-speed drives.

"Today, we are not building cars which are meant to driven on a daily basis from 'point a' to 'point b,'" Winkelmann said, "and this car is exactly that."

Lamborghini's current line-up consists of two models, the V-12 powered Aventador, available at prices starting at about $375,000, and the V-10 powered Gallardo, which starts at about $180,000 and is available in numerous hard-top and convertible variations.

The Italian automaker has been considering something with broader appeal for years, Winkelmann said. In 2008, Lamborghini showed off a four-door sedan concept vehicle called the Estoque. But he said the global economic crisis put a stop to any further consideration of that vehicle.

Meanwhile, the SUV market has continued to expand, despite higher gas prices, as more sizes and variations of the high-riding vehicles have come to market.

Today, SUVs range from the traditional large truck-based vehicles to very small, sporty models. According to a recent analysis by Ford Motor Co. (F, Fortune 500), one in three vehicles sold in the United States last year was some sort of SUV.

"Even outside the U.S., the segment is growing," Winkelmann said.

Should Lamborghini decide to make the Urus available for sale -- something Winkelmann said hadn't been decided yet -- it would cost roughly the same as the Gallardo.

Producing a vehicle like the Urus is "over 95% feasible," Winkelmann said.

Much of the concept SUV is made from expensive, but very lightweight, carbon fiber, and instead of actual side mirrors, it has video cameras.

Currently, Lamborghini sells only about 2,000 cars but is prepared to produce as many of the 3,000 of the Urus SUV alone.

That would still leave the supercar maker selling just 5,000 vehicles a year, a number that wouldn't endanger the brand's valued exclusivity, Winkelmann said.

Lamborghini is part of Germany's Volkswagen Group (VLKAF) which also owns Audi, Bentley and Bugatti. Bentley also unveiled an SUV concept vehicle at an auto show earlier this year.

The 600 horsepower Urus would primarily be intended for on-road use, said Winkelmann, where it would offer strong acceleration and cornering without, perhaps, the top speed of a Lamborghini sports car.

Off road, it would perform about as well as other high-performance luxury crossovers. In other words, it will be able to drive in the mud and on rocks but not all that well. To top of page

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