Which is better? Small and nimble or big and bulky? It’s clear that question is weighted with bias. Small can just as easily imply ill equipped or inexperienced and big can often mean greater resources and deeper knowledge. All of which means homework must be done; attention must be paid.
If you’re looking for product, you need to know who’s behind it. Who’s making sure your interests are being served? Who’s paying attention to quality? Do you need a large corporation with myriad resources and personnel? Or is a small company with focus and flexibility right for you? What, exactly, are you getting for your money?
During a trip to Italy in 2010 I had the opportunity to tour the Lamborghini factory (sadly, not as a buyer, but as a mere spectator).
A half century ago, the Sant’Agata Bolognese-based manufacturer switched from building farm tractors to high-speed grand touring sports cars. The company’s direct competitor is that other Italian icon, Ferrari, but it also caters to enthusiasts who might be shopping for Porsches and Maseratis.
Lamborghini makes 250 cars a year, and much of the assembly is done by hand, one reason the base prices start at approximately $225,000 for the Gallardo model and climb to $355,000 for the Murciélago.
Women, who are deemed to have a more subtle touch (this is Italy, after all), are usually assigned to the assembly of the leather interiors. Men are generally the ones who attach the various engine, drive train, and steering components to the bodies. Automation is used for some of the Gallardo manufacture, but almost all of the Murciélagos are hand assembled – which accounts for a portion of the $130,000 price differential.
Lamborghini is part of the Volkswagen empire, so it is able to take advantage of – and occasionally share – design and technology innovations with VW, Audi, Bentley, and Bugatti. But, for the most part, Lamborghini is left to its own devices as it creates its coveted supercars.
I learned that because Lamborghini feels that it has reached the upper limit of engine size, the only efficient method of increasing the speed and handling of its cars is to make them lighter. To that end it has invested heavily in carbon fiber technology. Research on this lightweight composite is being done for the company in Seattle at both the University of Washington and at Boeing.
Most Lamborghini owners probably aren’t concerned with how much carbon fiber, aluminum, or steel comprises their car. But, based on a 140-mph test run in a Gallardo on the narrow two-lane roads that surround the factory, I can attest to the effortless speed that test driver Moreno Conti (pictured below) was able to wring out of the car (and since Lamborghini owns the road, there was no threat of a speeding ticket).
It was gratifying to see that a boutique company with a storied heritage is still successfully competing internationally. Like a bespoke business suit, a handmade car can make you feel special, and sometimes – in the case of a Lamborghini – lighter.
Sometimes smaller is just the ticket.
Felicia Knight is President of Knight Vision International, LLC: www.KnightVisionInternational.com
Photos by Towle Tompkins for Knight Vision International