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Longtime Lamborghini president and CEO Stephan Winkelmann will leave the company early next year to take the helm at Audi’s go-fast Quattro GmbH division. The 51-year-old Rome native has headed Lamborghini since 2005 and will replace Heinz Peter Hollerweger at Quattro. The Italian media has locked in on Ferrari’s former Formula 1 team principal, Stefano Domenicali, as Winkelmann’s successor at Lamborghini.
Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann speaks in Manhattan on April 1, 2015 to debut the Aventador Pirelli Edition. Photo by Lamborghini.
It wasn’t just his long tenure, but also Winkelmann’s high visibility and sense of style that made him seem like a fixture at Lamborghini. He steered the brand through the success of the Gallardo and the birth of both the Aventador and the Huracán. He has also been instrumental in pushing for a third model line for the company, which will finally become a reality with next year’s Urus SUV. Previously, he has floated various third-model concept cars, including the 2008 four-door Estoque, the 2012 Urus, and the electric-hybrid Asterion from 2014. He also saw the company release the ultra-exclusive Reventón supercar.
Winkelmann joined Lamborghini after a youth spent as a lieutenant in the German paratroopers, studying in Rome and Munich, and working for both Mercedes-Benz and Fiat. He’s in for a new challenge at Quattro, with the brand responsible for the Audi RS3, RS4, RS6, RS7, and R8 models, although it is not responsible for its sales and distribution channels.
The well-liked Domenicali is a year younger than the man he replaces and headed Ferrari’s F1 team from 2008 until 2014. Audi had tried to poach him in 2012 and again in 2013, and he has long been earmarked as the man to take the four rings back to F1 for the first time since before World War II. However, in the wake of Volkswagen’s diesel scandal (and given the sport’s shrinking popularity), a return to F1 has been ruled out for now. Insiders, too, have insisted that Domenicali was always looked at as a potential Lamborghini boss, rather than a pure motorsports man, even though he’d never managed a retail operation and joined Ferrari’s racing team straight out of Bologna University.
It is not clear where outgoing Quattro boss Hollerweger will end up. Widely popular and hugely respected, the youthful 62-year-old engineer was appointed by now-retired Audi development chief Ulrich Hackenberg early in 2014.