If you are seeking from a car the ‘Jarvis experience’ you see in the Iron Man movies, the Lamborghini Huracán Evo can give you something close. No, it won’t call you ‘Sir’, neither will it tell you in a soothing, polite, posh accent to calm down detecting the elevation in your pulse and heart rates when you rev up the 8,000-rpm engine and hear “VROOM”. But the electric brain in it, Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrata, or LDVI, will help you handle well the wheel of a beast which hits 100 kph in 2.9 secs—the time you take to bat your eyelids once or twice—and has a top speed of 325 kph. Meaning, you will be in control. You don’t need to be an F1 driver and yet you get to have all the fun. It also displays the metrics of the car’s performance and yours on an 8.4-inch screen. A basic form of the Jarvis experience sans the chatter, huh?

This is the first Lamborghini with vehicle dynamics control augmented by predictive logic—which means the car doesn’t just react, but predicts the best driving setup for the next moment. “It is remarkably easy to drive, while delivering the most responsive, sensory and agile driving experience, in every environment,” says Matteo Ortenzi, Automobili Lamborghini’s CEO for Asia Pacific. “This vehicle stands out for its ability to anticipate the moves and satisfy the desires of the driver, in harmony with the Lamborghini DNA,” India head Sharad Agarwal explains. The company calls the model “the natural evolution of the most successful V10 engine in Lamborghini history”.

 Sharad Agarwal, head, Lamborghini India.      
Sharad Agarwal, head, Lamborghini India.     
Image : Lamborghini     

The Italian makers of the supercar chose India for the commercial launch of the faster avatar of the Huracán early in February after it was unveiled in Bahrain. By releasing a model fitted with such cutting-edge tech in India first, the Italian carmaker is signalling that India has a prominent place in its scheme of things. Lamborghini has also given a sneak peak of its plan for growth in India: Keep it steady. It knows that there is much road for it to cover here; it sold 45 cars last year, up from 26 in 2017—a 73% rise in sales. The numbers are not much when compared to global sales. Lamborghini recorded global sales of 5,750 units last year, in which 1,301 units were sold in the Asia-Pacific.

The company hopes to grow around 60% this year in India—which has 200 Lamborghini owners—on the back of its new launches. “India has always surprised us with the demand and appreciation for the Lamborghini portfolio range, be it the Aventador, Huracán, or the Urus,” Agarwal says. Lamborghini expects India to become one of its top 15 markets in the next five years. “From being the leader in the super sports segment to now the leader in the super luxury segment, we are confident that we will continue to increase our share in the segment,” Agarwal says.

Lamborghini’s confidence comes from the spike in the headcount of high net worth individuals (HNI) in India—people who have wealth over $1 million in liquid assets. The count rose to 263,300 in 2017 from 218,600 in 2016 and their combined wealth to $1,067.1 billion from $877 billion, according to a Capgemini report. That’s a 20.4% growth in headcount and a 21.6% rise in wealth—the fastest growth among HNI populations across the world. This signifies much for the Italian super-car maker or any luxury carmaker for that matter.

“Lamborghini’s approach has been to target markets where the income levels have gone up. From that perspective, it might see India as a growing market,” says Sridhar V., partner, Grant Thornton India. If India’s GDP grows at 7-8% annually, the HNI population will increase. “This is the kind of growth that is estimated from the country in the next 10 years. That’s why India is a fair bet for them to have,” he explains.

Also, a crop of young wealth creators has sprung up thanks to the heightened deal activity in the startup world in India. A report by the Centre of American Entrepreneurship called “Rise of the Global Startup City” says that Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru are among the top 20 global cities contributing to the growth of venture capital investment.

Besides the custom of Richie Richs and the ‘old money’ generation, Lamborghini is hoping that these first-generation entrepreneurs give its India ambitions a lift. Agarwal says customers in India have a penchant for limited edition models. One of the 600 limited edition Lamborghini Aventador Superveloce Jota, or SVJ, which made its global debut in 2018 at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California, was delivered to a buyer in Bengaluru in January. Lamborghini says that in the last few years, customers from tier 1 and tier 2 cities such as Ludhiana, Jaipur, Lucknow, Bhubaneswar, Indore, and Madurai have bought Lamborghinis. “This also shows that there is growth across states,” it says.

Agarwal says the main drag for the supercar market in India which comprises brands like Ferrari, Aston Martin, and Porsche is the tax structure. “The inconsistency in the tax structure is what makes us keep going back to the drawing board again and again,” he says. When the goods and services tax was implemented in July 2017, luxury vehicles attracted a base tax of 28% with 15% cess. Later, in September, the cess on large cars was hiked by 5%, taking the total to 48%. Ortenzi says high taxes in India are not letting the market expand.

“While some reduction in taxes could help grow the overall luxury car market in India, a consistent policy is needed to help companies make long-term plans and chart out their strategies,” Ortenzi says. Not to speak of import duties. The new Huracán Evo imported from Italy attracts over 100% import duty. The ex-showroom price of the car is ₹3.73 crore and its on-road price is ₹4.25 crore.

“The super-luxury car market is still evolving in India. It hasn’t grown to its potential as the segment has consistently been hit by increase in duties. The super-luxury segment has had its own challenges with the environment in India—infrastructure issues and traffic conditions,” Agarwal says.

The company maintains that despite these challenges, it has been growing steadily and leading the super luxury segment in India. “We don’t have a challenge here,” he says. “Until now, we were saying that we are the leaders in super sports car segment in India; but now in 2018, Lamborghini emerged as the leader in overall super-luxury cars segment, priced above ₹2.5 crore.”

Despite the tax structure and import duties, there will be demand for hot wheels, says Sridhar. “The super-luxury segment is not about volumes. It’s all about uniqueness. Predominantly these are limited-editions. I don’t see a challenge for them in terms of coming up with their new models. They will always find a minimum level of demand among that category of buyers,” he explains.

Agarwal is excited about the next leg of innovations that the company is going to work on. “When it comes to the future, the application of AI (artificial intelligence) in super sports cars will be used to heighten the experience of driving a Lamborghini...” he says. But Agarwal insists it will be the emotion connected with owning and driving a Lamborghini that will continue to be the X factor for the brand.

“This is why our customers buy a Lamborghini; they wouldn’t want anyone else or even technology for that matter to take over this experience,” he says.

This story was originally published in the April 2019 issue of the magazine.

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