Lamborghini to follow Porsche with SUV: sources

Mon Feb 6, 2012 7:22am EST
 
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By Laurence Frost and Andreas Cremer

PARIS/BERLIN (Reuters) - Lamborghini, the maker of low-slung supercars once advertised as "closer to the road," is planning a new model that will be further from the tarmac than ever: an SUV.

The Italian brand, owned by Volkswagen, aims to announce the vehicle at April's Beijing auto show for a 2016 launch, according to two people with knowledge of the strategy.

At the risk of alienating purist fans of its 313,000 euro ($413,000) Aventador carbon-fiber sports car, Lamborghini hopes to repeat the Porsche Cayenne's success in the fast-growing market for luxury four-by-fours.

"An SUV could be cool, but it would have to be the fastest on the planet and look extreme," said Andrew Romanowski, president of the world's biggest Lamborghini owners' club, based in Los Angeles.

"If it turned out like a run-of-the-mill BMW X5, it would be a betrayal," Romanowski said. "People would be very upset."

The planned vehicle reflects a push to increase profitability at Lamborghini and VW stablemate Bentley, with new models to meet upscale demand for all-wheel-drives. Britain's Bentley last year announced tentative plans for its own SUV.

"Porsche proved that it works, to the industry's great surprise, and now everyone is flocking in," said Christoph Stuermer, Frankfurt-based research director at IHS Automotive.

By 2015, sales of the plushest SUVs will increase about 20 percent in Western Europe, 30 percent in the U.S. and 50 percent in China, the consulting firm predicts. The Cayenne has become Porsche's top-selling model since its launch a decade ago, with 59,000 sold last year and a 121,000 euro price tag on the high-performance Turbo version.   Continued...

 
<p>A Lamborghini logo is seen in the showroom in downtown Milan, November 5, 2010. REUTERS/Paolo Bona</p>