With the boldness of James Bond, the gaze of Cary Grant and the keys to any Lamborghini, Stephan Winkelmann is one of most captivating figures in the automobile world.
As president and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A., Winkelmann has been hailed for his revolutionary vision that led the luxury supercar company to an unrivalled series of record-breaking years after his inauguration in 2005. As he introduces himself at Lamborghini Toronto’s flagship centre off the city’s lakefront, it’s difficult not to dub his pleasantries with shaken-not-stirred-charisma. “Being the head of Lamborghini is a dream job. I was not applying; somebody asked me if I would love to do it and I eventually stepped into it,” says the Berlin native who was raised in Rome. “It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life.”
This interview is the last on his to-do-list before catching a flight back to Bologna, Italy – the brand’s home base. “I’m not suffering when I get into the office or when I wake up in different places all over the world every other day,” says Winkelmann, who often works seven days a week and spends more than half of his time travelling. “I’m always happy when I wake up in the morning to be able to do this job.”
In an economic climate that hyperbolizes the value of luxury goods, running one of the world’s leading exotic supercar companies requires rose-coloured contacts and exceptional foresight. “I think that still, there is in the future, a high demand for these types of cars – especially Lamborghinis,” says the 45-year-old, whose bespoke pinstriped suit was exclusively made by his Turin tailor. While the auto visionary acknowledges that the brand was indeed scathed by fiscal volatility in 2009 and now 2010, it hasn’t shaken him from standing by Lamborghini’s philosophy of uncompromising extremities. “I’m used to tough times from working at other car companies,” says Winkelmann, who jumpstarted his car career at Mercedes-Benz and later spent 11 years working for Fiat and Alfa Romeo.
Personifying the company crest that boldly positions itself at the helm of every Lamborghini, Winkelmann has taken a bullish stance on the global auto market, adapting unconventional initiatives to sidestep the sharp sword of a daunting recession. As a testament, the brand recently hit an unprecedented manufacturing milestone with the 10,000th Gallardo model coming down the company’s production line. “We are investing a lot of money into the future of this car business; so as soon as the markets come back, we will be there with amazing products,” he says, revealing that his favourite model is the Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera in a matte black finish.
For Winkelmann, some of his most revered moments revolve around revving a Lamborghini engine. “It’s a rocketing feeling, much more than simply being in a super sports car. The interior design gives a sensation of cleanness and power, which finds its complement in the performance of the car. You can feel the Lamborghini brand pulsing through the vehicle,” he says. With infatuation beating through his own veins, Winkelmann’s public displays of affection for the ultra-luxe brand foretell an enduring relationship.