This week Audi confirmed that Stephan Winkelmann will end his CEO role at Lamborghini, a company he quite successfully ran for the past 11 years, to take up the head job at Audi’s Quattro skunkworks. Officially, Winkelmann is replacing current Quattro boss Heinz Hollerweger who is set to retire this year. However, the move also indicates that Audi is finally serious about challenging the likes of BMW M and Mercedes-AMG.
Quattro is a standalone firm fully owned by Audi. It is responsible for several areas including Audi’s customer motorsport program, the Audi Exclusive personalization department and development of performance road cars like the R8 supercar and RS lineup. This variety of responsibilities has caused much confusion over the years—it doesn’t help that Quattro is also the name of Audi’s all-wheel-drive system—so recently Audi introduced the Audi Sport brand to represent its performance car developments and motorsport programs.
According to Audi, the Audi Sport brand is to be positioned more clearly going forward.
During his time at Lamborghini, Winkelmann was influential in transforming the company from a cottage industry to a high-tech, luxury powerhouse. Lamborghini is enjoying its best sales in its entire history and is just a couple of years away from significantly lifting volumes with the Urus SUV. It’s clear Winkelmann’s appointment as head of Quattro is to emulate that same performance for the new Audi Sport brand.
“With his experience from more than eleven years in charge of Lamborghini, Stephan Winkelmann will be a key contributor to the further growth of Quattro,” Audi CEO Rupert Stadler said in a statement. “Winkelmann’s experience will contribute to the ongoing growth of the sporty subsidiary in Neckarsulm.”
The good news for performance fans is that more RS models and perhaps even dedicated sports cars may end up being developed (remember the R4?). And we should also see more cross-sharing of technology between Lamborghini and Quattro, with the latter possibly benefiting from Lamborghini’s expertise in lightweight construction and carbon fiber technologies. And best of all, Audi’s silly practice of excluding the United States for many of the latest RS models should also be finally ended.
Meanwhile, running the show at Lamborghini is Ferrari [NYSE:RACE] veteran Stefano Domenicali. His appointment shows that Volkswagen Group is serious about the Italian brand’s performance image despite it venturing into the SUV segment. It may even hint at an expanded motorsport program for Lamborghini. Domenicali served as Ferrari’s Formula One boss from 2008 to 2014 but don’t get your hopes up about Lamborghini entering F1 anytime soon. VW Group officials have ruled out the possibility.