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  1. Leaders in Luxury
February 26, 2009updated Feb 04, 2014

Stephan Winkelmann

By Chris Boyle

Stephan Winkelmann

President and CEO
Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

Stephan Winkelmann was born in Berlin and grew up in Rome, Italy. He studied Political Science in Rome and in Munich and started his career at a German finance company, after which he moved to Mercedes Benz.

In 1994 he became Area Sales Manager for the Alfa Romeo brand within Fiat Automobil AG in Germany. Then, he became Fiat’s Head of Marketing, Southern Region.

From 1996, Winkelmann worked at Fiat Auto S.p.A. in Turin in Marketing and Sales management for Alfa Romeo, where he was responsible for the launch of the Alfa 156. He went on to become the Area Manager for several markets in Europe. After working as Board Member for Sales at Fiat Auto Austria, Winkelmann was appointed as Chairman of the Board at Fiat Auto Austria and later at Fiat Auto Switzerland.

In 2004, he was named as Chairman of the Board of Fiat Automobil AG in Germany. On 1st January 2005, Stephan Winkelmann was appointed President and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. in Sant’Agata Bolognese (Italy).

ET: Were you always interested in performance cars?

Stephan Winkelmann: Well I took a path to this industry that is a bit different from other executives. I originally studied political science, but ended up working for Mercedes-Benz and then at Fiat and Alfa Romeo in different positions. In January 2005, the CEO of the Volkswagen Group called me and asked me if I’d be interested in being the president of Lamborghini. So I made up my mind and I decided to go for it. Interestingly enough, as a kid, I had an affinity more for motor bikes than with cars. However, cars are very easy to like – especially beautiful cars like Lamborghinis. So, even though I didn’t grow up as a “car nut” it’s very easy for me to identify with our customers and our products.

ET: Do you feel like Lamborghini, maybe more so than other companies, approaches their cars as a lifestyle product as well as a performance product?

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Stephan Winkelmann: For sure. We not only produce incredibly aggressive, powerful cars, but also compete in the highest segment of the luxury business. Different rules apply to each segment. We have to deal with the rules of a normal car company and on top of that with the rules of the luxury business. This increases complexity, but makes for a very satisfying working environment. I’d say that our cars are even more than a lifestyle choice and are so extreme that if you don’t really love them, you don’t buy them.

ET: Given that, do you feel like you get a different customer than some other performance car companies?

Stephan Winkelmann: When Lamborghini started it was more about the product for product’s sake. We made legendary performance cars like the Countach and the Miura. Obviously, we still have customers who want that kind of performance and attention to technical excellence. However, as the image of the brand has evolved, we also have customers who are simply into the Lamborghini brand. This evolution has been important. Many of our customers have already made up their mind before we meet them. They want a Lamborghini, so they don’t tend to ask a lot of questions.

ET: I recently drove the new Gallardo LP 560-4 and was struck by how much more comfortable the cockpit was than in previous iterations. How do you manage to increase comfort and drivability while still retaining Lamborghini’s signature ferocity?

Stephan Winkelmann: I’m glad you noticed the improvement. What you experienced was the result of a great deal of engineering work, and, again, points to our direction of enhancing the brand without straying from its DNA. We recently debuted a four-door concept in Paris, something the company has never attempted. And this will be a true Lamborghini, with all the power and velocity you expect, just in a very useable, convenient, but still elegant and boldly styled package.

ET: In addition to being one of the car industry’s newest leaders, you’re also one of the industry’s most fit. What is your fitness regime?

Stephan Winkelmann: I have some military experience so fitness is something hard-wired into my life. But honestly the biggest challenge is always intake, what I eat. Especially when I’m traveling, I have to really pay attention to that. Of course, living in Bologna, the best region for cuisine in the best country for cuisine, I have to pay attention all the time.

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