Speaking to CarAdvice in his only interview with Australian media at the 2014 Geneva motor show, Automobili Lamborghini president and CEO Stefan Winkelmann panned the idea of an ultra-niche petrol-electric flagship model to take on the current crop of battery-backed billionaires' toys.
“What you see now – and I don’t want to be, let’s say, finger pointing – but what you see now in the world of the hybrids is not something which is going to be in normal production cars; due to cost, or due to weight if the cost is a normal one,” Winkelmann said.
“And therefore, I don’t know, if you think this is positioning for the future, it might be okay. But the future will be different to the cars you see today,” he said.
Winkelmann suggested the likes of the Porsche 918 Spyder (above), McLaren P1 (below) and Ferrari LaFerrari hybrid flagship models are ways for those brands to show what is possible for them - but Lamborghini will not follow suit.
“There is no super luxury manufacturer today who is going to have a hybrid car which is a performance car, to a normal price. This is not feasible at this time. Or you have heavy batteries, and then you are a sitting duck. Or you don’t have heavy batteries but then you’re not hybrid,” he said.
“This game is not, let’s say, fulfillable at the time being. And therefore I’m saying as long as it’s possible – in terms of technology – we’ll keep the DNA,” he said of the brand’s choice to retain only naturally aspirated engines.
“And the moment you really need it, then you have to deliver something that is acceptable in both senses, you know?”
Winkelmann said the three aforementioned hypercars – all of which cost more than one million euro ($1.52m) cannot be sustained for the longer term, and like any car made by those brands, they are heavily marketed upon their exclusivity.
“There is no market which is a constant one million euro,” he said. “I made this experience myself more than one time, so I know what I’m talking about.
“So if [high-performance hybrid cars] is something, then it needs more time. It needs more time.
“As I said, it will be coming step by step – the biggest issue now is the development of the capacity of the batteries, but capacity is equal to weight,” he said.
Being part of the Volkswagen Group of companies, Lamborghini could potentially share development costs with other Group brands, and it is already tightly associated with Audi. Indeed, the next-generation R8 and the new Huracan will share the same lightweight carbonfibre-infused chassis (see below).
This, logically, could lead to technology sharing for hybrid Lamborghini and Audi models. But Winkelmann said the barriers to offering any such model is based purely on the level at which the technology currently stands.
“In the Group, there is the access,” he said of potential sharing plans. “But even the technology outside the group is not possible to achieve – so if I just wanted to put a flag to say ‘this is what we did’, we would have done it,” he said.
“We want to think about what the future is going to look like, and maybe even then we are doing something,” he said.
Winkelmann suggested that future performance will need to be spawned from cars losing weight, not gaining it through heavy battery systems.
“We did the Sesto Elemento, no?” he said. “Showing what the power to weight ratio is able to do with a normal engine, without changing it, but just working on material - this is the type of exercise, when it comes down to the next level, that we have to continue to do.
“But still, the weight you are adding today is more than the weight you can get out, unless the batteries are really something different,” he said.
“And it might be that some years down the road, this is already the case. We’ll see.
“But we are constantly looking into this: naturally aspirated, turbo, turbo plus hybrid, turbo plus plug-in hybrid, or even electric. But electric, for me, the timing is not something the customer really is expecting even in a decade from now.”