Lamborghini:  A Living Legend

 

 

The whole mystique of Automobili Lamborghini is related to the man who had the inspiration, the skill and the determination to turn a dream into a reality.

Ferruccio Lamborghini was born in Renazzo, a little village near Bologna, on the 28th of April 1916. His parents were farmers but Ferruccio did not inherit from them the love of the land and, from the very early days of his life, he showed an interest in technology and mechanics. He completed his technical studies in Bologna and soon after was able to put his know-how to the test when during the Second World War he was put in charge of vehicle maintenance in Rhodes, Greece.

It was probably due to his experience gained during the War that once he returned home, he started buying old military vehicles converting them into tractors, something that Italy desperately needed after the War. The success of this enterprise prompted him to buy a workshop in Cento where, from 1948 onward, Lamborghini tractors were produced. In 1959 the Lamborghini production was extended to burners and air conditioning units.

Having thus obtained a solid financial background Ferruccio Lamborghini launched himself into yet another new enterprise: the production of helicopters, one of his life-long passions, but he was stopped by the Government’s refusal to grant him a license. He then decided to turn his attention to cars and in doing so his life took a decisive turn and the car world was never the same again.

He opened a car factory in Sant'Agata in 1963, which started delivering cars in 1964: in doing so, the legend was started. Year after year this factory has produced cars that have been the ideal of beauty and perfection expressing better then anything else Ferruccio Lamborghini’s desire for nothing but the very best.

From 1963 to 1972 the Company grew at a steady rate, the only limiting factor was the launch of new cars which slowed down production capacity.

The year 1972 however, was marked by the worst crisis ever known by Lamborghini, coupled with the oil embargo and the general world recession which resulted in a dramatic reduction in sales, Ferruccio was forced to sell 51% of the company to a Swiss businessman, Georges-Henri Rossetti. Then in 1974 he sold the remaining 49% shares to a friend of Rossetti, René Leimer. The new Shareholders did not have day to day involvement in the company and were reluctant to invest, and for this reason the company found itself in difficulty with suppliers who were concerned over late payment of invoices.

1977 was probably the worst year for Lamborghini due to strategic mistakes on the part of the owners, which brought Lamborghini to over invest in an off-road vehicle without the prospect of sales and the underevaluation of a signed agreement with BMW for the production of a small series of sporting cars, an agreement which was annulled by the German company in 1978.

The situation was so serious that the Bologna courts were forced to bring the Company to the sad stage of receivership. Fortunately the company was entrusted to Alessandro Artese, a Bolognese expert in Commercial Law who was also a car enthusiast. Together with Sgarzi, sales manager, and the help of Giulio Alfieri, technical director, they managed to pull the company through a very difficult time, whilst searching for new shareholders.

The Company never closed down, thanks to the determination of its employees, the passion and loyalty of its clients and the support of its distributors. This situation lasted until July 1980 when the Bologna Court decided to sell the Company to the Mimran Brothers, well known tycoons in the food industry. The new owners, whose passion for cars was well known, started rebuilding the company investing in the plant, in new products and the search for a skilled workforce.

Decisive improvements were achieved from 1984 to 1986: the Company took off again and new foundations were set for a decisive growth, whilst the symbol of the Company, a charging bull, became well established and known on the market.

The growth rate was so fast and so demanding upon capital expenditure that it made it almost impossible for private individuals to support it properly. The need for a professional and strong partner became obvious and Chrysler seemed to be an ideal choice.
Chrysler, fortunately, found Lamborghini extremely attractive, thanks to its motivated management, its new products, the quality of manpower and the fascination of the marque: Chrysler asked the Mimran family for total share capital and an agreement was reached between them and signed in Sant'Agata on the 23rd of April 1987 by Mr. Greenwald and Mr. Mimram in the presence of all the Lamborghini workforce.

The reshaping of the Company started with the nomination of Mr. Emile Novaro as President of Lamborghini. Funds were injected in the Company's workshop to increase
production. On 7th of May 1990 after 19 years of work and 1997 cars produced, the Countach model went out of production giving way to the new Diablo model.

The production and sale of the Diablo reached its peak in 1991 and the Balance Sheet for that year showed a profit.

But the crisis of the world market was approaching. The ensuing years were very hard for automobile manufacturers and were a disaster for the world economy. The recession became dramatic and the dreamcar market in 1992 registered a significant drop in sales.
One would have to wait until 1993 to see a difficult and slow recovery of the world economy. 1994 seems to be the year of the economic shakedown although the experts say that 1990/1991 sales peaks will never again be achieved.

The crisis motivated the company's reorganisation and promoted the production diversification through new experimental projects, such as an electric vehicle for urban transportation, third-party mechanical machining, marine engine development and production.

In March 1993 the Diablo VT was introduced to the press and the public. This VT version is a Diablo fitted with a viscous coupling that turns the traction of the vehicle into a four-wheel drive mode when required.

In September of the same year Automobili Lamborghini presented the Diablo Special Edition to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the company's foundation.

In January 1994 Chysler Corporation agreed to sell Automobili Lamborghini to MegaTech, a company which is part of the Indonesian Group Sedtco.

In 1994 Lamborghini won, for the first time, the Class 1 World Off-shore championship, setting a leadership that continues on today.

In 1995 the shareholders became V’Power (60%), Indonesian company controlled by Tommy Suharto, and MyCom (40%), Malaysian company controlled by Jeff Yap.

In November 1996 Vittorio Di Capua, a well known manager with wide experience in the car business gained over 40 years of work within the FIAT group, become president and chief executive officer of Automobili Lamborghini s.p.a. with the difficult task to recover the company from a very difficult situation of heavy losses. Under his leadership strong action in cost cutting and restructuring has brought Lamborghini’s balance sheet black figures, in 1997, for the first time after many years, thus attracting institutional investors interested in the acquisition of such a prestigious brand.

On the 24 of July 1998 an agreement between the shareholders of Lamborghini and Audi was signed in London for the complete take-over of the Company. Finally the House of the Bull has a strong owner, widely respected in the automotive world for its technical competence and commercial success, that will open new perspective of success to the supercars built in Sant'Agata.

In September 1998 Rodolfo Rocchio, an Italian engineer with many years experience within the Audi group, was appointed co-CEO of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

In January 1999 the company was restructured.
Today Automobili Lamborghini Holding S.p.A. with its President Franz-Josef Paefgen, has full control of three separate companies :

- Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. - cars
- Motori Marini Lamborghini S.p.A. - marine engines
- Lamborghini Artimarca S.p.A. - licensing and merchandising

This strategy was implemented in order to guarantee the dedicated focus of each company in their respective fields.

In June 1999 Vittorio Di Capua resigned as President and co-CEO of Automobili Lamborghini SPA.
Giuseppe Greco, a manager with a wide experience in the automotive field with Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, has been appointed President of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. and co-CEO of Automobili Lamborghini Holding S.p.A..

In 1999 sales rose to 265 units, with an increase of about 25% compared to the previous year.

In January 2000 a radical restructuring in the headquarters is going to be carried out.
The new buildings will be ready by Spring 2001.

Next Page:  Lamborghini:  A Living Legend -- Part 2

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