Lamborghini had a breakout year in China in 2019 despite the overall market downturn, thanks in part to the brand’s first Super SUV – the Urus. I took one out for a spin on the streets of Beijing on December 3 with Francesco Scardaoni, Managing Director of Automobili Lamborghini Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macao. We talked about the car, the Lamborghini brand, the Chinese market, electrification and the future of the industry. Below are excerpts from the conversation. – Editor
LX: Tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you get to where you are today?
FS: I’ve been working at Lamborghini for 10 years, and here in China for almost six years. I graduated from the University of Bologna with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.
I grew up in Bologna which is in the middle of Italy’s “Motor Valley” – a strip of land that starts from Modena down to Romagna where top luxury car and motorbike brands like Maserati, Pagani, Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Ducati are located.
Growing up in this “engine” environment, I liked cars a lot. What I like so much about Lamborghini is that it is a small company with a strong family feeling: you know everyone and everyone knows you. It is amazing to work in a company like this. The heritage of the brand is strong and the technologies that we develop are outstanding. Lamborghini is one of the companies that invest the most in R&D. This makes our company always a pioneer in terms of new technologies. We always introduce new cars that set the rules of the automotive market. Think about for example the Huracán Performante and the ALA system. This makes the brand so powerful and it makes me really proud.
LX: The history of the Urus is connected with the Chinese market since the concept version had its global debut at the Beijing Auto Show in 2012. It was launched in China a year ago and is now in its first full-year on the market. How is the Urus still a Lamborghini?
FS: We knew that the Urus for China would have been a success and it was already a strategic product for China back in 2012. We started the product preview in January 2018 and the car hit the market in Q4 2018. I’m extremely happy with its sales performance.
First of all starting from exterior design, you can recognize the Gandini line, the hexagon and “Y” elements that define our cars. The front reminds you of the Aventador while the top and back comes from the Countach. The side comes from the LM002, our first SUV. All key elements of the Lamborghini design language are there.
It’s a super sports car with the comfort of an SUV. It’s a big car with a long wheelbase. But thanks to the introduction of rear wheel steering, it can make really tight turns.
In terms of driving dynamics, the Urus at 2.2 tons drives like a super sports car. For me, what is really impressive is the braking power. The huge carbon ceramic brake discs in the front and the rear provide an amazing braking performance – from 100 to 0 km/h in just 33.7 m.
Francesco Scardaoni, Managing Director of Automobili Lamborghini Chinese mainland, Hong Kong & MacaoBorn in Italy in 1977, Mr. Francesco Scardaoni holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Università degli Studi di Bologna. After graduation, he gained international experiences before joining Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A in 2009 where he covered different positions in sales and aftersales up to Head of Spare Parts and Accessories.
In February 2015, Mr. Francesco Scardaoni was appointed Head of Automobili Lamborghini China, responsible for sales, marketing and aftersales.
Mr. Francesco Scardaoni’s joining strengthens Lamborghini’s Asia-Pacific team, and demonstrates Lamborghini’s continuous commitment to the Chinese market.
LX: Sales in China this year will more than double last year’s level. What are the reasons behind the sudden “gush?”
FS: The strategy this year was based on three pillars.
The first pillar is the product. In addition to the first full-year introduction of the Urus, Huracán in general have also been a great success. We also delivered the Aventador SVJ. We had the best cars available for this market and the response from customers was amazing.
The second pillar is marketing strategy. We created our marketing strategy to involve different marketing activities, starting from driving events like the China Giro, the Accademia, Esperienza and the Super Trofeo, down to more lifestyle events like Lamborghini Night, auto shows and dealer events, getting people together to share the passion of Lamborghini.
The third pillar is our network. We will have 20 dealers in China including Hong Kong and Macao by end of 2020.
We are adding more dealers in order to get closer to existing and potential customers in China. It’s not an easy task for China because the 50 largest cities in China only cover about 30 percent of the population, so it’s not easy for a small brand like us to be everywhere. We have to select key cities that cover most of the population in China.
I wouldn’t focus only on sales performance but also on marketing performance. That means brand awareness. It’s super strong and popular and we are always ranked No. 1 in all the social media platforms – WeChat, Weibo, etc. in terms of followers.
We always try to create new experiences not only for our customers but also for our fans. A few years ago, we started online streaming of our events so that also fans can join a Lamborghini event. This year for instance we introduced the very first Virtual Giro China, where a fan can register, virtually buy his car, join the China Giro and enjoy the scenery like a real customer. All of these activities are empowering our brand and the fan base in China.
LX: Tell me about your customers. Who are they? How do they use their cars? How long do they keep them? What’s unique about them?
FS: Our customers mainly come from the finance and business sectors. They are mostly entrepreneurs. The average age of Urus customers is slightly higher than our super sports cars, about 36 years old, which is 4 years younger than those in the rest of the world. We also have a lot of female customers.
Urus is more a car for daily commuting, family and friends. This is mainly because of the five seats that you have in the car, not because of comfort, because even if you drive a Huracán or an Aventador, those are comfortable cars. But you have to choose one person to bring with you. With the Urus you can bring everyone with you. That’s the reason why Urus is more versatile than a super sports car. When driving a Urus, you enjoy the super sports car performance with your friends and family.
The average mileage on the Urus is much higher than a super sports car because they are driven on a daily basis. After one year of introduction we have cars with almost 10,000 km.
LX: The industry is moving towards electrification. Can you ever imagine a Lamborghini in the future being an electric Lamborghini?
FS: Lamborghini is about emotion and drivability. The key parameters that make a car drivable are handling, acceleration and top speed. What makes the car more handleable is low weight. Currently the electric powertrain technology doesn’t allow that because of heavy components like batteries and motors. Acceleration is totally fine because performance is totally in line with the expectations of super sports car customers. But if you take an electric super sports car, how many times can you do an acceleration full throttle? The more you do these kinds of things, the more the battery will wear out. When you drive a super sports car, you are living your dream. Would you be okay if you did three times acceleration at full throttle, then having to be careful because the battery is almost dead? I don’t know if this is something that a customer would like to experience.
But this is with the current technology. You see how fast the development trend is changing in this kind of technology. If you think about a few years ago, having an electric car would have been crazy. Now it’s normal.
In the future, when the electric components become lighter as we want to and perform as we want to, why not (go electric)? The important thing is to have an emotional car with an emotional powertrain. If you are sitting in a car that is sterile and doesn’t transmit any emotion to you, it’s not a Lamborghini. This is for us an asset. When you sit here and you find this logo, it means driving with emotion and passion and living your dream. So, we will go into electric when we find the right packaging to deliver emotion to our customers.
LX: I am certain that Lamborghini will have some kind of an electric concept in the future.
FS: Sure. The Terzo Millennio concept is a car that was released more than a year ago, and it was designed in order to show how Lamborghini sees electrification in terms of technology and design. Technology-wise, that car was really a laboratory car developed with MIT using super capacitor instead of lithium batteries. Super capacitor is a new kind of battery that Lamborghini introduced many years ago with the Aventador. When we created the first Aventador with the Start & Stop system we used super capacitor because it is a battery that can give you the same power as a lithium battery but with one-third of the space and also of the weight. It’s also a battery that uses the same power to charge and discharge, so the cycle of charging and discharging is symmetrical, therefore the life of the battery is much longer.
Our plan will be electric in the future, we don’t know yet when, because we don’t think as of today the pure electric powertrain is able to fulfil the needs of super sports cars. We believe there will be a transition through plug-in hybrids that can help to smooth the path toward electrification.