The Geneva motor show is most important European show. If you have a role of any kind in the car industry, this is where you should be. And this is where everybody is. From Marchione to Ghosn, van Acker to Donckerwolke, Shakira to Usher, Elkann to Muller, or from Jackie Stewart to Niki Lauda.
The first two days of the show have a different signature. Day 1, Tuesday, is dedicated to the press. Cameras everywhere, accompanied with celebs and industry moguls. For me, this is when I pick up the news and enjoy the fact that I can go anywhere I want. Always welcomed with a smile. Great coffee at Alfa Romeo.
The next day, still closed to the general public, is dedicated to the industry and important clients. This is when local dealers show up. When rich clients park their gulfstreams and offload their armcandy to see whether there are still some roubles to burn on supercars. I love to observe how givers, takers and fakers interact.
Over the years I have seen this group change. New cultures entered. New money looking for new means to communicate supremacy, status or style. This money is attracted by the heritage, design and fine technology of European automotive. Or the other way around: The uniqueness of European cars is the combination of heritage, design and quality.
And this is why I don’t understand Lamborghini’s choices.
Last month Lamborghini introduced the Veneno. This monster from Sant'Agata Bolognese is based of the Aventador LP700-4 body but with more extreme body styling made entirely of carbon fiber. An Aventador dressed up for the Brazilian carnival in Rio with a retail price tag of a whopping € 3.5 million.
There will be four copies including the test model Lamborghini plans to keep. The other three are already sold out even before going into production. A rapper named Birdman with a tattooed face including a huge red star on the top of his head has already made a down-payment of $1 million to become one of the three exclusive owners.
From a commercial perspective I understand the exercise. This trick works: The Lamborghini Murciélago LP640 based Reventon sold out within months.
Though from a strategic perspective I do not understand how to strengthen your brand with an over-priced, heavily dressed up car. And I doubt if publically selling it to someone like mister Birdman helps emphasising Lamborghinis brand values. I’m sure if I had the money, I’d rather identify myself with Jay Kay, Fernando Alonso or even Rowan Atkinson.
What would be another option? Lets take a look at the other Italian supercar: Ferrari. They introduced LaFerrari: An aerodynamically lined supercar, packed with high tech stuff unavailable anywhere else. Science on wheels, not a pimped F12berlinetta. And all for only 1 million euros. LaFerrari’s specs and stats will be hard to beat by the powerplayers of the hypercar world.
Or look at the 918 spyder hybrid. Again, an extremely innovative car based on Porsches heritage. They reinvented the supercar for the 21st century
Does it lack clientele? Not at all. Does it lack clientele in upcoming countries? No! Did they need a 911-turbo based über-styled pussywagon?
Secretly I like the evil niece better. She’s raw, she is born from frustration. A wild bull, Not a well trained horse. And even better: She created the Miura, my eternal love.
I’m 100% sure new money will be persuaded by Lambo's real DNA. I’m sure that sticking to its core values will lead to a sustainable image. Eventually, hopefully, leading to the new Miura.