Lamborghini had some rare good news for the European automotive sector as it announced that its drive to cut costs helped it to achieve a 27.4 per cent rise in pre-tax profit on virtually flat sales in 2008.
The luxury sports car maker, which shares an outlet with Bentley in Birmingham, said it aimed to generate another profit this year despite the global crisis.
“The overall target for the 2009 financial year is to attain an overall profit,” the Italian division of Volkswagen’s Audi brand said in a statement, without giving a specific forecast.
Chief executive Stephan Winkelmann said he expected sales to decline this year but not as much as those for the luxury car market in general, as wealthy car lovers postponed big purchases.
“I’m sure the market will remain like this,” he said.
The head of Aston Martin, Ulrich Bez, was quoted by German newspaper Die Welt last month as saying he expected his company to sell fewer cars this year after having enjoyed the second-best year in its history in 2008.
Mr Winkelmann said the market could be one of the first to recover once the global economy started to improve.
However, Lamborghini was prepared to wait it out if it took time for the market to pick up again, he said.
“We are ready for 2009 and 2010 to have no growth,” he added.
The global crisis has been so severe that it has changed the spending habits of the rich, a class usually immune to the vagaries of the economy.
They are seen curbing their appetite for clothes, watches, jewellery and every other luxury good.
The crisis has been especially hard on the car industry, forcing manufacturers such as Lamborghini to cut costs by, for example, halting production at its plant for extended periods.
Lamborghini, based in Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy, has been sending a third of its staff home during temporary shutdowns of its plant there, but Mr Winkelmann said the company had no plans to make permanent job cuts.
The company also would not touch its budget for developing a new car every year, he said.
The latest model, the Murcielago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce, was shown at the Geneva Motor Show in March. A third of the limited run of 350 units has already been sold.
Although 2008 was a record year for unit sales, Lamborghini still missed its target. Sales went up 1 per cent to 2,430 units, far below the 5 per cent target.
Revenue rose 2.5 per cent to €479million, with strong growth in Asia and the Middle East helping to mitigate the sharp drop in the US, Lamborghini’s single biggest market.
Pre-tax profit was €60million, helping Lamborghini meet at least one target for the year – a return on sales of 12.5 per cent against 10.1 per cent the year before.