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The Robb Reader: Stephan Winkelmann

Paul Meyers

With his bespoke pinstripe suits and 1960s-style sideburns, Stephan Winkelmann embodies Lamborghini’s raging-bull image. A German-born businessman raised in Italy, Winkelmann became CEO of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. in 2005, after the company fell under the auspices of Audi, and soon introduced German precision to the Italian marque’s rough-and-tumble cars. "Lamborghini has always been uncompromising and extreme," he says. "Still, we strive to reinvent ourselves and to stay at the edge and ahead of the competition." This year, the company’s Gallardo LP 560-4 did just that by winning Robb Report’s Car of the Year award and, in this issue, earning our Best of the Best honor in the Sports Cars category (page 52). The featured matte-black Lamborghini is essentially a duplicate of Winkelmann’s LP 560-4, but the 45-year-old admits that his daily driver is an Audi S8. "My choices are not always in tune with typical Italian taste," he says, "but at the end of the day I am happy being an individual."

In the world of exotic cars, does color matter?
It matters a lot to me. I love noncolors like black, white, and gray for the exterior of a car. For the interior, I like black, and saddle-colored leather for the seats.

In addition to producing exotic cars, Italy has a reputation for being a fashion mecca. What does dressing well mean to you?
I grew up in Rome, so my tastes tend to be mainly Italian. I wear English shoes and Italian ties from Naples, but I have never been dependent on a brand for style. I care more about the fabric and cut. I prefer English wool because it is very dry, soft, and you never have to iron out wrinkles. The fabric is simply the best. I hate to say it, but the English fabrics are better than the Italian fabrics right now. I have a tailor in Italy who does my suits exclusively. I choose the fabrics, and he does the work. But he is not a tailor who is linked to any brand, so it is a bit of a one-man show.

What sort of things do you collect?
In my line of work, I am always on the move. I live in apartment houses and hotels, so it helps if I have no additional weight in my life. I am not very attached to anything except for my books. I collect books to read and not as antiques. I have hundreds. I enjoy reading about politics and world history, so some of my favorite writers are [Ernst] von Salomon, [Ernst] Jünger, and [André] Malraux. As for American writers, my favorite is Ernest Hemingway. I love his short stories, because it is there that you find the best expression of the author’s talent. I purchase my books at [stores] around the world, and I am currently reading a biography of [Filippo Tommaso] Marinetti.

In your travels, have you discovered a favorite destination?
I have grown to love certain regions in the States, Asia, and Europe. But my favorite spot is always changing because I love experiencing new places. If I have the opportunity, I prefer to stay in Italy. Sardinia is beautiful in the summer. I love staying at the Cala di Volpe while I’m there, but it’s not about the hotel when you visit Sardinia; it’s all about the island’s outstanding seaside. In my opinion, there is no better beach in the world.

How do you define a life well lived?
I think that life is the best if you have a good balance. A very busy life will give you fulfillment, especially if you have the opportunity to do something interesting. Also, allowing yourself to enjoy your spare time. There must be separation between your job and the time that you have at your disposal. The right balance between the time off and a very busy and challenging job is a life lived well.

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