Lamborghini SpA unveiled its first sport-utility vehicle in almost two decades as the Italian supercar maker looks to expand its lineup to tap rising demand from emerging markets.
The Volkswagen AG (VOW) unit unveiled the concept SUV, called the Urus, in Beijing yesterday before this week’s auto show in the Chinese capital. Lamborghini sees potential sales of 3,000 vehicles a year for the SUV, Chief Executive Officer Stephan Winkelmann said at a company presentation. A final decision to produce the vehicle hasn’t been made, he said.
“If you’re going to enter a new segment, you have to remain true to your core values,” said Winkelmann. “Our core values are uncompromising, extreme and Italian.”
The sportscar maker joins Bentley Motors Ltd. and Fiat SpA (F)’s Maserati in super-sizing their supercars a decade after Porsche broke with tradition and rolled out the Cayenne in 2002. The German maker of the 911 sports car now counts on the SUV for half its deliveries.
Demand for luxury SUVs is forecast to climb 49 percent in China to 265,200 vehicles in 2015, almost three times the 18 percent growth in global sales for those vehicles, according to IHS Automotive.
“The SUV market is one of the fastest growing segments in China,” said Namrita Chow, an analyst with IHS Automotive based in Shanghai. “Everybody is pushing the SUV segment and therefore you have the likes of Maserati and Lamborghini bringing in models in the segment.”
Lamborghini projects China sales to grow between 5 percent and 10 percent, in line with VW projections for the market as whole, said Christian Mastro, the carmaker’s Asia Pacific head. Daimler AG (DAI) Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche is even more bullish, today projecting 2012 growth in the premium segment in China of 15 percent to 20 percent.
Bentley, another Volkswagen luxury brand, displayed its own SUV concept at the Geneva auto show last month. China became the company’s biggest market in the first quarter after sales surpassed deliveries in the U.S. for the first time, according to Chong Got, executive director of Bentley China.
Maserati will start production in 2013 of a Jeep-based SUV, currently called the Kubang, while Ferrari SpA last year added the 260,000-euro ($344,000) FF family car, its largest model.
Porsche, which expects to double global sales to 200,000 units by 2018, counts China as its largest market for the Panamera four-door sports car and the Cayenne. The carmaker expects the number of Chinese dealerships to reach 60 by the end of the year from 41 now, Bernhard Maier, the Stuttgart, Germany-based carmaker’s sales chief, told reporters in Beijing yesterday.
Lamborghini discontinued the boxy LM002 SUV -- dubbed the Rambo Lambo -- in 1993 after a failed effort to make military vehicles. If the new concept SUV is built, it could come to market in 2016 or 2017, Winkelmann said today.
“We decided after a deep analysis in different segments that this is the perfect fit for our brand,” Winkelmann said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “We used to produce only two-door super-sports cars like the Aventador and the Gallardo, but this car is really making the difference for our brand.”