Lambo Urus to stay true to concept, but almost didn't happen

Turbo And Plug-In Powertrains On The Table

Lamborghini has been making noise about adding a third model line for years, and it's finally going to happen now that the Urus concept has been approved for production. It'll likely be a while yet before all the details are sorted out and revealed to the public, but while visiting the factory in Sant'Agata Bolognese, Autoblog was able to glean some intriguing details about the Italian automaker's forthcoming crossover and its path it is taking from concept to production.

"It's good to have heritage, but the LM002 is not the reference or the blueprint." - Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann

We first saw the Urus concept back in 2012, and Lamborghini has been lobbying its parent company Volkswagen ever since for the go-ahead to put it into production. Now three years later, it finally has the green light. A company representative told Autoblog the production version looks "very" close to the concept. (No ground-up redesign here, then, like sister-brand Bentley did with its inaugural crossover project.)

Speaking with a small group of journalists in Sant'Agata, the company's chief executive Stephan Winkelmann confirmed that "the SUV could be the [company's] first car with a turbo, and it could be the first car with a plug-in, if we have the opportunity to have more than one engine." The Urus (or however it's ultimately labeled for production) will also be decidedly geared towards on-road performance – unlike the Rambo Lambo on display in the museum next door. "It's good to have heritage," said Winkelmann, "but the LM002 is not the reference or the blueprint" for the new model.

As to the question of why it has taken three years to get approval, and why it will take another three to put it into production, Winkelmann was frank: "Basically if you look at our numbers, we are a company which is growing at a fast pace, but we are very small," said the affable executive. "We had to find a way to almost double our efforts, because it's not the exchange of a model line, with the Gallardo and Huracán, it's adding a model line. And not out of 20 to come to 21 models, but from two to three is a major effort, and you have to have a rock-solid business case."

"Putting 500 more people inside a company which is now at 1,200, you can imagine what it means. Doubling almost the size of the area here where we are sitting today. Investing hundreds and hundreds of millions. If you're not clear about how you want to do that, and showing a clear model behind it, then for sure the Group is telling you come back when you are ready. And therefor it took time for us."

Securing government support to produce the Urus in Italy was undoubtedly central to making that business case, but its production location wasn't a given. Since the Urus will share much of its underpinnings with the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, Volkswagen Touareg, and Bentley Bentayga, carrying out much of the production at the plant in Bratislava, Slovakia, was a real possibility. "Being a big group – and the Volkswagen Group is a big group – you have more than a hundred plots which are able to produce cars," said Winkelmann. "And there is an open competition. This open competition is something which is very positive." However ultimately Sant'Agata prevailed.

"Let's first do this one in the right way, then all the rest, we will see." - Winkelmann

Going with a crossover form was no more of a given for Lamborghini than was its production site. The company showcased the Estoque sedan concept in Paris way back in 2008, and given its ostensibly greater potential to spin off additional bodystyles (like a two-door coupe or convertible), that might have seemed the smarter bet. In the end, however, Winkelmann said the SUV was the clear choice. "Before deciding for the SUV, for sure we made an analysis of all the segments. So in terms of pricing, in terms of regional or worldwide distribution, in terms of gross opportunities, in terms of capitalization on existing models... All of that led up to a segment much deeper and to find out this was going to be the one we want to stay in."

If the Urus proves a success, it could potentially lead to Lamborghini making a second, smaller version as well – just as Porsche did with the Cayenne and Macan, and as Bentley is considering as a followup to the Bentaya. However Winkelmann wouldn't be drawn into speculating at this stage. "Let's first do this one in the right way, then all the rest, we will see."

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