As its home nation faces a stagnant economy and the exodus of 20- and 30-somethings to neighboring European countries, how does a hypercar manufacturer keep its hype alive for the next generations? College students from Beantown may be the answer; the concentration of young adults within the Boston area is probably inversely proportional to the number of cars that sells in Italy.
Lamborghini has just signed a three-year sponsorship deal with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—for a sum it declines to reveal—through which the company is entitled to tap more than 50 students who study abroad each year in Italy. They'll assist with research, development, and all-out genius. Toyota began partnering with the school last fall as part of a and has opened a center on the MIT campus. But imagine working overseas with Lamborghini. Is that not the college semester of a car fanatic's dreams?
"We often see a win-win: the combination of their analytical skills with the research creativity that comes from MIT's students and researchers," said MIT-Italy faculty director Carlo Ratti about these sponsorship deals. "I would expect something similar also in the case of Lamborghini."
The university likens the new program to a 2007 partnership between That one led to a completely new (and faster) method of forming carbon-fiber parts. It's still too early to foretell what MIT students will actually contribute in the exotic sports car arena, although Lamborghini R&D director Maurizio Reggiani says he is keen on any "energy of the future," be it batteries, hydrogen, or something so far out that the EPA has yet to regulate it. Composite materials and manufacturing, along with the occasional hybrid powertrain, are also subjects of interest. White papers and theses are fine, but Reggiani has cast a near-term goal: Imagine a hypercar for the year 2025.
"With the trend of hybridization and electrification, the weight of the car will improve dramatically," he said. "Our wish is to teach the world that are usable—but also can be used aesthetically."
When mentioned with the prospect of , as Ford has done on the latest, Reggiani says he's having this exact discussion every week with his engineers on how to monitor the fiber's structure as the wheel wears. For now, he envisions Lamborghini offering such wheels as a track-only option since "you cannot see or predict" if the wheels are damaged. Speaking coyly, Reggiani said we'd see something "within the next month" that will demonstrate Lamborghini's latest innovations in material science—perhaps coinciding with the L.A. auto show. Bring us another something like the , please.
Reggiani said he's feeling no pressure to cut budgets on the development of loud, ridiculous, 200-mph machines, especially those with naturally aspirated engines, despite the financial pressures on the Volkswagen Group (Lamborghini's parent, via Audi) owing to the diesel-emissions cheating scandal."We continue our development and steer the company in exactly the same way," he said.
He assures us that the SUV—which will spawn a hybrid and a turbocharged V-8 version—is on schedule for production next fall and sale in early 2018. It may help Lamborghini to source its chassis from the and its engine from Audi. Reggiani is adamant that the Lambo must have large heaps of torque just off idle, which is about the only thing the company's signature V-10 and V-12 engines can't provide.
"In an SUV, if you try to go off road, you will find out if you don't have at least 550 Nm of torque (406 pound-feet) and you are in the sand or dune, you stall immediately," he said.
As former CEO Stephan Winkelmann has , Lamborghini intends to keep building large-displacement engines unless certain countries "theoretically put the car out of the market" by imposing penalizing taxes and regulations, Reggiani said.We can only hope that, when next we stroll over the Charles River to Cambridge, we might run into a chatty engineering student just home from Italy, full of details about the Aventador replacement and whatever insanity Lamborghini has up its sleeves. That's why there are places called bars.