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‘We Don’t Want to Be the Horses of Tomorrow’: Lamborghini’s CEO on the Marque’s First NFT and First EV

Stephan Winkelmann shares how the high-performance automaker is embracing the future without forgetting its past.

Lamborghini's first NFT of commissioned art is a piece by Swiss photographer Fabian Oefner. Photo: Courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

Lamborghini’s supercars have long pushed technological envelopes, from the application of carbon fiber in the early 1980s to the radical Countach to the computer-controlled aerodynamics of today’s Aventador. Now, the company is launching into a high-tech arena of a decidedly different sort: NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.

In the most simplistic terms, NFTs are unique digital creations—ranging from music to artwork—meant to guarantee exclusivity in our copy-and-paste world. Today, Sotheby’s is auctioning off five Lamborghini Space Keys, small pieces of carbon fiber that spent months aboard the International Space Station in 2019. Each of these keys, etched with a QR code, will open commissioned artwork by Swiss photographer Fabian Oefner, whose past works have used detailed models of classic cars to create wildly intricate and innovative artistic representations of these iconic machines. The auction starts at 10 a.m. ET and ends on February 4.

Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann tells Robb Report more about this new NFT venture and drops hints about the company’s coming game plan for electrification.

Stephan Winkelmann, CEO of Automobili Lamborghini.

Stephan Winkelmann, CEO of Automobili Lamborghini.  Photo by Tom Ziora, courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

Why has Lamborghini entered the world of NFTs?

We have had agencies approaching us saying we are innovative, we are always looking at new technologies, we are young-minded, maybe we will be interested in this. And when we look at the customer side of our company, we see the same attitude about us. We have much younger customers than, let’s say, customers of similar brands. Now, at the end of the day, the auto industry is very conservative, so this was a journey we developed with the board. I’m feeling very positive. It’s a new way of looking at things. Of course, we have to be careful that it doesn’t dilute our values. We are, after all, very much about the physical world.

NFTs have come under fire as being highly speculative investments that have been occasionally associated with art scams. Does any of this, along with the potentially faddish nature of NFTs, concern you?

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We discussed what the risks were. But if you don’t test things, you never know. We felt good about controlling our approach this way, and Sotheby’s has its own strong trademark, so we hope it doesn’t turn on us.

Lamborghini's first NFT of commissioned art is a piece by Swiss photographer Fabian Oefner.

Lamborghini’s first NFT of commissioned art is a piece by Swiss photographer Fabian Oefner.  Photo: Courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

How did you select the artist to collaborate with?

It was simple, you find an artist who is going in your direction.

Who do you think will be customers for the Lamborghini NFTs?

I have no idea. But there will be a lot of customers interested, because we see the feedback on social media. So at least there should be huge attention for this offering, even if does not always result in a bid.

The five carbon-fiber keys spent time in space. Why send Lamborghini materials aboard the space station?

Space is always seen as the future, something outside of normal life on earth. So the idea of combining the technology of the auto industry with outer space, that was a good match for us. We made the right choice with the carbon fiber, even if, at that time, we weren’t thinking about NFTs.

One of five Lamborghini Space Keys that comprise small pieces of carbon fiber that spent months in space and that contain a QR code to open commissioned artwork.

The five Lamborghini Space Keys comprise small pieces of carbon fiber that spent months in space and that contain a QR code to open Oefner’s artwork.  Photo: Courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

What are the company’s plans for moving into alternative power as the era of the internal combustion engine begins to fade?

We have been preparing for this next step for a long time. By investing in the Urus [Lamborghini’s SUV], we were aiming to stabilize things for our super sports cars. It was necessary for us to generate enough earnings to be reinvested in the company. Electrification is coming, first with a hybrid 12-cylinder Aventador, and then, in 2024, the Urus and Huracán will be plug-in hybrids.

By 2025, our entire lineup will be hybridized, and we will be cutting CO2 emissions by 50 percent. Our third step, full electrification, will be in 2028 with a complete new model. All of these changes will combine sustainability and higher performance.

Stephan Winkelmann, CEO of Automobili Lamborghini.

With Stephan Winkelmann at the helm, Automobili Lamborghini recorded its best sales year to date in 2021.  Photo: Courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

Will you hint at what we can expect from Lamborghini’s first all-electric vehicle?

Well, I can only say that we won’t start with a super sports car. The new [EV] car will have daily versatility, like the Urus.

How do automakers continue to create emotion and model differentiation when the unique characteristics of an internal combustion engine are removed from the picture?

Hybridization is like a booster, it helps performance. And we have five or six years of this still. We are driving a lot of EVs to get into the mindset of the different manufacturers. We agreed at Lamborghini that the major difference is the driving behavior, even if you have the same performance capabilities. It’s clear that there is a lot to do, the acceleration and the torque is tremendous, so you have to fine tune that.

The Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4 supercar.

Lamborghini’s extremely limited-edition Countach LPI 800-4 is an 802 hp hybrid supercar.  Photo: Courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

We have some time to get more and more people into this [EV] way of thinking. But a young generation is coming up who is saying, “I don’t sit at your table without you offering a sustainable car.” It’s a big challenge and opportunity for us. But there’s also no way out, the legislation is there. We don’t want to be the horses of tomorrow.

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