Lamborghini’s precarious journey to the safety of VW

Lamborghini, throughout its’ 51 year history has been through some rather difficult times and turmoil. In fact, the Italian powerhouse has had more owners than you can count on one hand. This means that the company exchanged hands at an average rate of more than one per decade. That’s quite impressive actually, although in a bad way; and needless to say, the supercar business is quite erratic and unpredictable.

‘Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini’ was founded in May 1963 in Sant’Agata, Italy; by its’ first and original owner; the man himself, Ferruccio Lamborghini.  (Automobili Lamborghini 2014) Through the passing years, and under the rule of Ferruccio, the company gave birth to the most exquisite array of cars. These included masterpieces such as the 350GTV, Miura, Espada, Urraco, and the legendary Countach. (Lambocars 2000-2013)

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Over the subsequent years, social situations and Labour unions facing difficulties, meant change and unrest; and many companies and especially factories came to their knees. At this point, in 1972, Ferrucio sold 51 percent of the company to Swiss industrialist Georges-Henri Rossetti, and later the remaining 49 percent to a friend of his, also a Swiss man, Rene Leimer. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

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Right after the Swiss overtaking, and by 1973, the Arab-Israeli war was threatening petrol supplies, and thus, the need for such excessive cars had pretty much almost completely diminished. In 1977, Lamborghini tried a collaborative project with BMW, however was not a success, and tried another joint venture in 1977. This time, creating a partnership with ‘MTI’ Mobility Technologies International, to create military off-roaders for the US; this too ended in decay. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

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In 1978, the Italian courts appointed a new head, Alessandro Arteses. By 1979 however, the company was quickly taken over by Raymond Noima and Hubert Hahne, a German racing driver. (Sheehan 1999-2014) By 1980 the company was declared bankrupt, and the courts appointed; the once again Swiss; Mimran brothers. Jean-Claude and Patrick Mimran, were very wealthy and had a booming sugar empire in Senegal.

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By 1981 the Mimran brothers had outright bought the company, and injected the much needed cash to bring the brand back to life, while also expanding the factory premises. The cars were flowing smoothly through the years, with models such as the Jalpa P350, the Countach LP500, and the LM002, although they were not exactly in excess. (Lambocars 2000-2013) Times were tough as always, and although the Mimran brothers did an excellent job at keeping the company moving, a larger investor needed to  step up to the plate. (Sheehan 1999-2014)

On the 23rd of April 1987, American car giant Chrysler took the reigns of Lamborghini. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014) Being in command, the US firm helped bring Lamborghini back on its feet, and up to pace in the supercar market segment. They created the ever so successful Diablo with its many variations; including an entire one-make race series achievement. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

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In the year 1993, on the 20th of February, Mr Ferruccio Lamborghini, the creator of the amazing brand, passed away in Purgia, Italy. (Lambocars 2000-2013)  The next year in 1994, Chrysler came to financial difficulty and suddenly sold the company off to a group of Indonesian investors, led by Tommy Surharto of the Surharto Family. (Lamboweb 2014)

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Under the influence of the Indonesians, the Diablo range saw further success, and by the late 90’s a successor was in the pipeline. The end of the 1990’s, however also brought along a financial crisis, which affected the investment group and so, they decided to join forces with Audi to develop the Diablo replacement. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

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By now, Audi saw, that the company was in trouble, and could not let a great opportunity go, and thus, in 1998, Audi AG purchased Automobili Lamborghini, and became the new sole owner of the company. (Lamboweb 2014) This led to some great developments, and transformed the brand into what it is today. In essence, the Audi-VW bailout of Lamborghini was the best thing that could have happened to the company.

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Volkswagen took over Auto Union in 1974, although decided to keep Volkswagen and Audi as separate brands. (Volkswagen 2014) VW, however doesn’t only account of Audi, as it has its hands in a lot of pies in the automotive industry. In 1980, it acquired ‘Chrysler Fevre Argentina S.A.I.C’ and promptly renamed it to ‘Volkswagen Argentina S.A.’ (Volkswagen 2014) In 1991, it also purchased Skoda in its’ entirety and adopted it into the VW Group (Volkswagen 2014)

The year 1998 was a massive achievement for Volkswagen, as it managed to collect an array of manufacturers in the luxury car segment, and call them its’ own. This consisted of the additions of ‘Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd’, ‘Bentley Motor Ltd, ‘Bugatti International S.A Holding’, becoming ‘Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S.’, as well as ‘Automobili Lamborghini SpA’.(Volkswagen 2014)

It seems then, that Volkswagen can be compared to the bully on the school playground who just takes everybody’s toys for himself. The only difference is that, had the bully not taken those toys for himself, they would have been broken into pieces in the hands of their original owners, and thus would leave them with nothing to play with. The actual Volkswagen Group then, is really more of a car brand philanthropist, rescuing all the companies from certain doom. Thus, the VW Group actually consists of the brands; Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Ducati, Lamborghini, MAN, Porsche, Scania, Seat, Skoda, and of course, VW, including VW Commercial Vehicles as a separate entity. (Volkswagengroup 2014), ( Volkswagenag 2014)

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The overtaking of Lamborghini came at a great point in time, and Volkswagen managed to transcend the brand towards growing success. Without the VW ‘bailout’, who knows how many more unstable hands the legendary Raging Bull would have had to endure, and indeed, would it have survived at all? It’s not all down to just money either, as Volkswagen, have a very long heritage and history of expertise. One thing is for sure though, the Germans really know how to build a true Italian supercar; they combined World class precision and engineering to the Lamborghini name and created the vibrant and passionate, yet sophisticated image that it transmits today.

 

References:

2014 Automobili Lamborghini (2014) History 1963-1964 [online]. available from <http://www.lamborghini.com/en/history/1963-1964/ >

2014 Automobili Lamborghini (2014) History 1965-1966 [online]. available from <http://www.lamborghini.com/en/history/1965-1966/>

2014 Automobili Lamborghini (2014) History 1967-1972 [online]. available from <http://www.lamborghini.com/en/history/1967-1972/ >

2014 Automobili Lamborghini (2014) History 1972-1980 [online]. available from <http://www.lamborghini.com/en/history/1972-1980/>

2014 Automobili Lamborghini (2014) History 1981-1987 [online]. available from <http://www.lamborghini.com/en/history/1981-1987/ >

2014 Automobili Lamborghini (2014) History 1987-1994 [online]. available from <http://www.lamborghini.com/en/history/1987-1994/>

2014 Automobili Lamborghini (2014) History 1994-1998 [online]. available from <http://www.lamborghini.com/en/history/1994-1998/>

Lambocars.com (2000-2013) Lamborghini – TIMEline [online]. available from < http://www.lambocars.com/timeline.html>

Lambocars.com (2000-2013) Ferrucio Lamborghini, a biography – the STORY [online]. available from <http://www.lambocars.com/lambonews/ferruccio_lamborghini_a_biography.html>

Lamboweb.com (2014) Ferrucio Lamborghini [online]. available from <http://www.lamboweb.com/History.htm>

Lamboweb (2014) History [online]. Available from <http://www.lamboweb.com/History.htm>

Sheehan, M.W. (1999-2014) ‘The Lambo Dealer, the $12m Swindle, the Slammer’ Ferraris-online.com [online]. available from < http://www.ferraris-online.com/pages/article.php?reqart=SCM_200906_SS>

Volkswagen.co.uk (2014) Volkswagen and Audi Brands unify in Germany [online]. available from <http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/timeline/event/58>

Volkswagen.co.uk (2014) Volkswagen acquires Chrysler in Argentina [online]. available from <http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/timeline/event/413>

Volkswagen.co.uk (2014) Skoda becomes fourth independent brand for Volkswagen Group [online]. available from < http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/timeline/event/449>

Volkswagenag.com (2014) Brands and Products [online]. available from <http://www.volkswagenag.com/content/vwcorp/content/en/brands_and_products.html>

Volkswagengroup.co.uk (2014) Five brands, one career [online]. available from <http://www.volkswagengroup.co.uk/content/sites/vwcorporate/volkswagengroup_couk/en/home.html>

 

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