- Bentley, Lamborghini and SEAT are a drag on Volkswagen Group
- Audi R15 TDI bids farewell at Sebring
- Automobili Lamborghini sees sales growth for 2011
Posted: 12 Mar 2011 05:50 AM PST
Volkswagen is basking in the glory of record sales and profits, but it’s not all good news. The group’s Bentley, Seat and Lamborghini brands still continue to record poor performances.
At its annual investors conference today, VW said 2010 was ” the most successful year” in its history with 7.2 million unit sales and an operating profit of 7.1 billion euros.
But a deeper look at the numbers shows that Europe’s biggest automaker and aspiring global No. 1 has some trouble spots.
Bentley’s operating loss last year widened by 51 million euros to 245 million euros, despite an 11 percent rise in unit sales to 5,117. VW CFO Hans Dieter Poetsch said today it was too early to say if the brand will be in the black in 2011 but he did not rule it out. He said Bentley was hit last year by a combination of difficult conditions in the luxury market and the need for one-off expenditure on new products.
VW’s struggling Spanish subsidiary Seat only had a slight recovery last year, narrowing its operating loss by 28 million euros to 311 million euros on a 0.8 percent rise in sales to 340,000 vehicles.
Lamborghini lost an undisclosed amount of money as sales fell 14 percent to 1,302 and revenues declined by 10 million euros to 271 million euros.
But VW CEO Martin Winterkorn was upbeat. He said growing demand for luxury products in China and India meant the prospects for Bentley are promising. Seat, he said, “is bouncing back” after regaining the market lead in its Spanish home market for the first time in 31 years. And demand for exclusive sports cars like Lamborghini’s models is picking up.
Still, even if these brands continue to underperform, VW can count on its luxury unit Audi, its core VW brand and Czech subsidiary Skoda for good news.
The VW brand saw deliveries rise 14 percent to 4.5 million, helped by growth in Russia, China and the United States. Operating profit for 2010 was 2.2 billion euros, up from 561 million euros in 2009.
Skoda had record unit sales of 763,000, up 11.5 percent, with strong growth in China, Russia and India. This helped to more than double its operating profit to 447 million euros.
Last year, Audi had the best-selling and most profitable year in its history, with a 15 percent increase in unit sales to 1.1 million and operating profit more than doubling to 3.3 billion euros.
In the near future, the highly profitable Porsche brand will be added to VW’s portfolio. And VW has the cash resources to take over Fiat’s Alfa Romeo if VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech can wrench the money-losing brand away from a reluctant Sergio Marchionne.
Posted: 11 Mar 2011 12:59 PM PST
Photo: © Corey Beaman
Audi starts the 2011 sports car season in the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 19. Making its final appearance is the Audi R15 TDI, which had to be modified to comply with the new regulations and which carries the project name “R15 plus plus" internally. Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas/Mike Rockenfeller (D/F/D), last year's Le Mans winners, as well as Dindo Capello/Allan McNish/Tom Kristensen (I/GB/DK), Le-Mans winners from 2008, drive the two diesel race sports cars.
A long sports car season starts for Audi Sport Team Joest in March: On the agenda up to November are seven races, the Le Mans test weekend and numerous tests with the Audi R15 TDI and the new Audi R18, which does not, however, race at Sebring. So as not to interrupt preparations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 11/12 the test and development program with the R18 continues to run in parallel to the opening round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup 2011 (ILMC) season.
As a result one car in particular bids farewell at the 12 Hours of Sebring, a car that made its debut here two years ago: the Audi R15 TDI. It celebrated its 2009 premiere with a victory – the ninth for Audi in this traditional event in US state of Florida since 2000.
For the second appearance at Sebring the diesel racing sports car competes under completely new conditions. New technical regulations from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) are valid in 2011, for which Audi has developed the “closed cockpit" R18. Older models like the R15 TDI may only compete in heavily modified form with greatly restricted engine power. Just how these cars will fare against the new models remains to be seen.
Photo: © Corey Beaman
Drastic cuts in technology
The new LMP1 prototype regulations limit engine displacement for new models such as the Audi R18, which will contest its first race in May, to 3.7 liters. Older cars like the Audi R15 TDI will be slowed down accordingly. To this end, the 5.5 liter V10 engine in the Audi R15 TDI must now draw air through two intake-air restrictors of 33.5 millimeter diameter – this is four millimeters less than before. At the same time the boost pressure is reduced by 23 percent to 2,000 millibar – 2,590 millibar was allowed before. The fuel tank may only hold 65 instead of the previous 81 liters of diesel, the fuel flow restrictor in the autonomous refueling tank was also reduced by five to 28 millimeters. “The drivers felt the engine restrictions very clearly during the test in Florida. They miss several dozen horsepower," explains Ralf Jüttner, Technical Director of Audi Sport Team Joest. “The reduction in tank volume sounds drastic at first, but the engine obviously also consumes less. The slower flow rate from the external tank means that pit stops will certainly not be any shorter despite the smaller fuel tank volume."
Proven drivers, new partners
The Audi R15 TDI makes its farewell appearance in Florida in the hands of two successful driver line ups. Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, who won at Sebring in 2008, share the car with start number “1" with Mike Rockenfeller. Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish, the Sebring winners in 2009, drive the “2" numbered Audi.
Two new partners are also part of the team for the first time at Sebring: Lining up alongside Bosch, Mahle, Michelin and TAG Heuer to partner the Audi sports car program from 2011 are Alpinestars, specialists for motorsport and extreme sports clothing as well as street wear, and lubricant manufacturer Castrol. With Castrol a familiar face returns to the side of Audi Sport; the two companies were already very successful together in competition as partners in the DTM, super touring cars and in rallying.
Topical points of interest at the weekend
- Audi Motorsport
Posted: 11 Mar 2011 10:39 AM PST
Automobili Lamborghini has started a positive 2011 with a strong product range and an exceptional order bank for its new Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4. The long-awaited flagship model is being shown to global automotive and luxury markets at the Geneva Motor Show.
Stephan Winkelmann, President and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini underscores: "We confirmed our long term strategy, which calls for stable and significant investments in new products even in difficult times. We see a slow but steady recovery of the market, and we will benefit from this. The extraordinary response to the new Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 is the best proof that our vision is right."
Lamborghini has already sold more than 12 months' production of its new V12 model, deliveries of which will start in the second half of 2011. Lamborghini will also commence deliveries this spring of its Gallardo LP 570-4 Spyder Performante. The Performante comes as the open version of the Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera, thus completing a rich range which also comprises the Gallardo LP 560-4 coupé, the Gallardo LP 560-4 Spyder and the Gallardo LP 550-2 coupé.
In 2010, Lamborghini delivered a total of 1,302 units to customers worldwide. The difference versus 2009 (1,515 units) was due to the run out of the Lamborghini Murciélago in May 2010. Sales for the remaining seven months of the year were based on the production of just one model, the Lamborghini Gallardo. Altogether, over a ten year production period, 4,099 Murciélago units were delivered to customers, making the outgoing twelve-cylinder one of the most sought-after super sports cars in automotive history and the absolute best seller in Lamborghini's twelve-cylinder history.
Full year turnover was at 271 million euros in 2010 (281 million euros in 2009). The pre tax result improved versus 2009, while still remaining below profitability. However, with the new Aventador LP 700-4, Lamborghini has presented an important new model which will support its ambitions towards a sustainable and profitable growth path in the future.
Even through the worldwide recession and the setbacks in traditional markets, the USA remained the major market for Lamborghini, leading the traditional European markets. 2011 will see a recovery in sales for both the USA and Europe with continuing increases in Asia thanks to a sustained strong economic environment and the launch of the new models.
In 2010, China has risen to become Lamborghini's second largest market. Here the company achieved unprecedented results since the opening of its first dealership six years ago: in 2010, 206 Lamborghini models were delivered from nine dealerships, representing a 150% growth over 2009.
For the full fiscal year 2011, Automobili Lamborghini expects an increase in sales and a further improvement of results.
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