Huracán 2014 U.S. Debut: Customer to Mfg Feedback Loop

I had the unique opportunity to visit The Amelia Island Concour’s d’ Elegance and witness the unveiling of the new Lamborghini Huracán.  To say that I was very impressed would be an understatement.  Was I impressed by the car? Of course. But that was not what impressed me the most. I’ll explain a bit on that later, but first a bit about the Huracán.

Back in 2010  Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A President & CEO Stephan Winkelmann said that the sports car market’s top design priorities were “Top speed was number One. Acceleration is number Two and then comes handling,” In the future “Handling is going to be number One. Acceleration is Two and Top Speed is number three” I must say that the Huracán appears to be the embodiment of that ethos.

What’s a Huracán?

The Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4 is the new sports car that replaces Lamborghini’s sales leader and most produced car, the Gallardo. The Huracán made its Eurpean auto show debut at the 84th Geneva Motor Show that was held from 6th to the 16th March 2014 with a private press unveiling on March 4. It made it’s private United States debut on Friday March 7th to VIP clients and it’s public debut on March 9. Both the private and public US debuts happened at The Amelia Island Concour’s d’ Elegance. Note the dates. CEO Stephan Winkelmann did the unveiling in the US just a few days after Geneva unveiling. It would seem that the US is important to Lamborghini eh?

Huracán is Spanish for hurricane but, as with all Lamborghini car models, this one is inspired by a Spanish fighting bull. According to Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.:

“The fighting bull Huracán of the Spanish Conte de la Patilla breed was known for his outstanding courage and strong sense of attack. He fought in Alicante in August 1879, showing his unrelenting character and remaining defiant and invincible, thus entering into the legend of fighting bulls’ history.”

Previous Lamborghini models have also been named after famous Bulls: The “Diablo, for example, derived its nameplate from a Spanish fighting bull bred by the Duke of Veragua that’s said to have battled the matador “El Chicorro” in a legendary 1869 fight that lasted for several hours. The Murcielago was named after a legendary fighting bull whose life was spared, as the story goes, after valiantly standing up to 24 jabs at the end of a matador’s sword in 1879. Its successor, the Aventador, was likewise named after a bull, in this case one was killed in a particularly gruesome fight in Saragossa, Spain in 1993” (Autoblog)

What’s LP 610-4 stand for?

“LP” stands for “Longitudinale Posteriore,” which is a snazzy way of saying the it’s a mid engined, longitudinally mounted motor (the crankshaft is oriented along the long axis of the vehicle, front to back). The Huracán motor is a V10, naturally aspirated 5.2 L. It’s tuned for 610 PS (449 kW; 602 hp). The Huracán’s top speed is over 202 mph (325 km/h). It can accelerate from 0 to  62 mph (100 km/h) in 3.2 seconds and from 0 to 124 mph (200 km/h) in 9.9 seconds. With a dry weight of 3,135 lb  (1,422 kg), it enables a power-to-weight ratio of 5.1 lb (2.33 kg) per horsepower. The Huracán has electronically controlled all-wheel drive, which aims to increase the traction on various surfaces and the overall performance of the car. That “all-wheel drive” part is what that last “-4” means by the way.

As anyone who’s met me for the first time near your car, you’ll probably recall me asking you to “Tell me about your car” or “What do you like most about this car vs that car?” I’ve come to the realization that the only way to really know what’s good or bad about a car is by what the aficionado’s of a particular marque have to say about the macchina. To become a true aficionado, in my view, is to have driven and experienced the marque in detail over many years. (Yet another reason I miss Walt Spak.) So, of course, over the course of the weekend I asked those questions a lot. It was interesting to note that the shifting and handling of the Huracán seemed to be at or near the top of Lamborghini aficionado’s first comments.

The Lamborghini Doppia Frizione (LDF) is the name for the new 7-speed, dual-clutch gearbox controlled by paddle shifters under the steering wheel, The LDF got rave reviews by the aficionados!

“It’s just sooo much smoother than the Gallardo”

“I even like it better than the Aventador and I love that”

“It’s just a dream!”

where just some of the comments. Shifting is one of the very first things you need to do in a car after acceleration and steering, so it was noteworthy that so many spoke so very highly of this aspect.  It would seem that that means that the new prospective buyers first driving experience is going to be extremely positive. That’s probably going to translate into a hefty jump in sales volume as the Huracán is targeted to handle the attack on the McLaren MP4-12C and the Ferrari 458 in the marketplace.

What impressed me the most?

Attitude. You can always get a flavor for a company’s culture by how that culture is reflected in the employees attitudes and responsiveness.  It was the first time that I had had the opportunity to meet any of the Lamborghini corporate folks. When brands become as famous and world renowned as Lamborghini, I had half expected a bit of an arrogant panache.  That was not at all what I encountered.  I was introduced to numerous people within the company over the course of several days and found that, when chatting, each and every one took the time to answer questions and even find me later to say that they had either found out the answer or wanted to introduce me to the person that has just arrived who could give me the answer. THAT was impressive.

It’s the kind of responsiveness and nimbleness you expect from a small start up company but certainly not from a company who’s parent, Audi AG, sold 1.58million cars last year.

Back in 2010 CEO Stephan Winkelmann was asked “What are the key metrics to decide on the future?” He said, “Its about design and performance. These key elements are not going to change” …as you might have expected, but he also said “We have meetings constantly about the business, it’s a constant update even on the strategy because their is nothing fixed. You always have to think again, what you thought six months ago because the world is changing fast.” That’s the kind of thing that a lieutenant in the German Army who was a paratrooper would say, who understands the importance of speed, responsiveness and adaption to current urgencies. Ironic that Winkelmann was indeed a lieutenant in the German Army who was a paratrooper.

I had the opportunity to introduce myself to Mr. Winkelmann and tell him about the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix and our Cortile Car Show. He wasn’t just cordial. He was attuned.  I suggested that we would like to invite him to the Cortile to do an official unveiling of the Huracán for the Pittsburgh market and the newly formed Lamborghini Club of Western Pennsyslvania. I was, of course, referring to the car being unveiled as I wouldn’t have expected him to visit.  What I did not expect was for him to say “Let me see what my schedule looks like” Again, the responsiveness and attention to detail. I learned later about some anecdotal conversations that had happened related to Mr. Winkelmann’s attention to detail about how the reveal was going to take place related to valve cap positions. The finer details are often overlooked by large companies and their top management. It’s usually delegated to the minions to “handle it” but the Lamborghini culture seems to drive precision handling of each detail from top down.

As someone who has spent a career in manufacturing, that sort of attention to detail and responsiveness translates into a great understanding of the market and a customer-to-manufacturing feedback loop that permits big R&D leapfrogs forward in product innovation. …and now, after Winkelmann’s comments in 2010, we have the introduction of the Huracán. It may just be one of those very special cars that, one day, 50 years from now, aficionados will marvel at the engineering and handling “of it’s day.”

Huracán “…thus entering into the legend of fighting bulls’ history”

Excerpts from this blog have been drawn from various sources and designated as direct quotes. See the links below for more articles and sources:

Stephan Winkelmann: The Full Interview

Meet the Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4 (AutoBlog)

Lamborghini unveils 610hp Huracán luxury super sports car (cnet)

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