Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A., commonly referred to as Lamborghini is an Italian automaker. The company was founded by manufacturing magnate Ferruccio Lamborghini in 1963, with the objective of producing a refined grand touring car to compete with established offerings from marques like Ferrari.
The company's first models were released in the mid-1960s, and were noted for their refinement, power, and comfort. Lamborghini gained wide acclaim in 1966 for the Miura sports coupé, which established mid-engine design as the standard layout for high-performance cars of the era. After a decade of rapid growth, hard times befell the company in the mid-1970s, as sales plunged in the wake of the 1973 world financial downturn and oil crisis. After going through bankruptcy and three changes in ownership, Lamborghini came under the corporate umbrella of the Chrysler Corporation in 1987. The American company failed to return the automaker to profitability and sold it to Indonesian interests in 1994. Lamborghini's lack of success continued through the 1990s, until the company was sold in 1998 to Audi, a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group, a German automotive concern. Audi's ownership marked the beginning of a period of stability and increased productivity for Lamborghini, with sales increasing nearly tenfold over the course of the 2000s, peaking in record sales in 2007 and 2008. The world financial crisis in the late 2000s negatively affected luxury car makers worldwide, and saw Lamborghini's sales drop back to pre-2006 levels.
Assembly of Lamborghini cars continues to take place at the automaker's ancestral home in Sant'Agata Bolognese, where engine and automobile production lines run side-by-side at the company's single factory. Fewer than 3,000 cars roll off the production line each year. The company currently offers two variations of a single model, the V10-powered Gallardo coupé and roadster. The flagship V12-powered Murciélago coupé and roadster were discontinued at the end of 2010, with its successor, the Lamborghini Aventador, expected in 2011.
Automobili Lamborghini was founded by Ferruccio Lamborghini, the child of viticulturists from the comune (township) of Renazzo di Cento, Province of Ferrara, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy. After serving as a mechanic in the Regia Aeronautica, during World War II, Lamborghini went into business building tractors out of leftover military hardware from the war effort. By the mid-1950s, Lamborghini's tractor company, Lamborghini Trattori S.p.A., had become one of the largest agricultural equipment manufacturers in the country. He was also the owner of a successful gas heater and air conditioning manufacturer.
Lamborghini's wealth allowed him to cultivate a childhood interest in cars, owning a number of luxury automobiles including Alfa Romeos, Lancias, Maseratis, and a Mercedes Benz. He purchased his first Ferrari, a 250GT, in 1958, and went on to own several more. Lamborghini was fond of the Ferraris, but considered them too noisy and rough to be proper road cars, likening them to repurposed track cars. Lamborghini decided to pursue an automobile manufacturing venture, with the goal of bringing to life his vision of a perfect grand tourer.
In contrast to his rival Enzo Ferrari, Ferruccio Lamborghini had decided early on that there would be no factory-supported racing of Lamborghinis, viewing motorsport as too expensive and too draining on company resources. This was unusual for the time, as many sports car manufacturers sought to demonstrate the speed, reliability, and technical superiority through motorsport participation. Enzo Ferrari in particular was known for considering his road car business merely a source of funding for his participation in motor racing. Ferrucio's policy led to tensions between him and his engineers, many of whom were racing enthusiasts; some had previously worked at Ferrari. When Dallara, Stanzani, and Wallace began dedicating their spare time to the development of the P400 prototype, they designed it to be a road car with racing potential, one that could win on the track and also be driven on the road by enthusiasts. When Ferruccio discovered the project, he allowed them to go ahead, seeing it as a potential marketing device for the company, while insisting that it would not be raced. The P400 went on to become the Miura. The closest the company came to building a true race car under Lamborghini's supervision were a few highly modified prototypes, including those built by factory test driver Bob Wallace, such as the Miura SV-based "Jota" and the Jarama S-based "Bob Wallace Special".
Under the management of Georges-Henri Rossetti, Lamborghini entered into an agreement with BMW to build a production racing car in sufficient quantity for homologation. However, Lamborghini was unable to fulfill its part of the agreement. The car was eventually developed in-house by the BMW Motorsport Division, and was manufactured and sold as the BMW M1.
In the 1980s, Lamborghini developed the QVX for the 1986 Group C championship season. One car was built, but lack of sponsorship caused it to miss the season. The QVX competed in only one race, the non-championship 1986 Southern Suns 500 km race at Kyalami in South Africa, driven by Tiff Needell. Despite the car finishing better than it started, sponsorship could once again not be found and the program was cancelled.
Lamborghini was an engine supplier in Formula One between the 1989 and 1993 Formula One seasons. It supplied engines to Larrousse (1989–1990,1992–1993), Lotus (1990), Ligier (1991), Minardi (1992), and to the Modena team in 1991. While the latter is commonly referred to as a factory team, the company saw themselves as a supplier, not a backer. The 1992 Larrousse–Lamborghini was largely uncompetitive but noteworthy in its tendency to spew oil from its exhaust system. Cars following closely behind the Larrousse were commonly colored yellowish-brown by the end of the race.
In late 1991, a Lamborghini Formula One motor was used in the Konrad KM-011 Group C sports car, but the car only lasted a few races before the project was canceled. The same engine, re-badged a Chrysler, Lamborghini's then-parent company, was tested by McLaren towards the end of the 1993 season, with the intent of using it during the 1994 season. Although driver Ayrton Senna was reportedly impressed with the engine's performance, McLaren pulled out of negotiations, choosing a Peugeot engine instead, and Chrysler ended the project.
Two racing versions of the Diablo were built for the Diablo Supertrophy, a single-model racing series held annually from 1996 to 1999. In the first year, the model used in the series was the Diablo SVR, while the Diablo 6.0 GTR was used for the remaining three years. Lamborghini developed the Murciélago R-GT as a production racing car to compete in the FIA GT Championship, the Super GT Championship and the American Le Mans Series in 2004. The car's highest placing in any race that year was the opening round of the FIA GT Championship at Valencia, where the car entered by Reiter Engineering finished third from a fifth-place start. In 2006, during the opening round of the Super GT championship at Suzuka, a car run by the Japan Lamborghini Owners Club garnered the first victory (in class) by an R-GT. A GT3 version of the Gallardo has been developed by Reiter Engineering. A Murciélago R-GT entered by All-Inkl.com racing, driven by Christophe Bouchut and Stefan Mücke, won the opening round of the FIA GT Championship held at Zhuhai International Circuit, achieving the first major international race victory for Lamborghini.
The world of bullfighting is a key part of Lamborghini's identity. In 1962, Ferruccio Lamborghini visited the Seville ranch of Don Eduardo Miura, a renowned breeder of Spanish fighting bulls. Lamborghini, a Taurus himself, was so impressed by the majestic Miura animals that he decided to adopt a raging bull as the emblem for the automaker he would open shortly.
After producing two cars with alphanumeric designations, Lamborghini once again turned to the bull breeder for inspiration. Don Eduardo was filled with pride when he learned that Ferruccio had named a car for his family and their line of bulls; the fourth Miura to be produced was unveiled to him at his ranch in Seville.
The automaker would continue to draw upon the bullfighting connection in future years. The Islero was named for the Miura bull that killed the famed bullfighter Manolete in 1947. Espada is the Spanish word for sword, sometimes used to refer to the bullfighter himself. The Jarama's name carried a special double meaning; intended to refer only to the historic bullfighting region in Spain, Ferruccio was concerned about confusion with the also historic Jarama motor racing track.
After christening the Urraco after a bull breed, in 1974, Lamborghini broke from tradition, naming the Countach not for a bull, but for countach!, an exclamation of astonishment used by Piedmontese men upon sighting a beautiful woman. Legend has it that stylist Nuccio Bertone uttered the word in surprise when he first laid eyes on the Countach prototype, "Project 112". The LM002 sport utility vehicle and the Silhouette were other exceptions to the tradition.
The Jalpa of 1982 was named for a bull breed; Diablo, for the Duke of Veragua's ferocious bull famous for fighting an epic battle against "El Chicorro" in Madrid in 1869; Murciélago, the legendary bull whose life was spared by "El Lagartijo" for his performance in 1879; Gallardo, named for one of the five ancestral castes of the Spanish fighting bull breed; and Reventón, the bull that defeated young Mexican torero Félix Guzmán in 1943. The Estoque concept of 2008 was named for the estoc, the sword traditionally used by matadors during bullfights.
Lamborghini is structured as part of the Lamborghini Group, consisting of Audi-owned holding company Lamborghini Holding S.p.A., with controls three separate companies: Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A., manufacturer of cars; Motori Marini Lamborghini S.p.A., maker of marine engines; and Lamborghini ArtiMarca S.p.A., the licensing and merchandising company. The group additionally contains Volkswagen Group Italia S.p.A. and Volkswagen Group Firenze S.p.A. In May 2010, the Italian coachbuilder Italdesign Giugiaro came under the control of Lamborghini Holding, as the Volkswagen Group purchased 90.1% of the company's shares from the Giugiaro family.
The most important markets for Automobili Lamborghini's sports cars are the U.S. (41%), Germany (13%), Great Britain (9%), and Japan (8%). The company produces around 400 cars per year.
Motori Marini Lamborghini produces a large V12 marine engine block for use in powerboat racing, notably the World Offshore Series Class 1. The engine displaces around 8,171 cc (499 cu in) with an output of around 940 hp (700 kW).
Automobili Lamborghini Artimarca licenses Automobili Lamborghini's name and image for use on other companies' products and accessories. Examples include a variety of apparel items, various model car lines, and the ASUS Lamborghini VX series notebook computers.