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Lamborghini Brand and Design Director steps down

Tue, 14 Dec 2010

According to well-placed sources within the automotive design community, Car Design News has learned that Manfred Fitzgerald, Brand and Design Director at Lamborghini, has been asked to leave the company. It is presumed his role with the company's design aspects will likely be absorbed by current Audi Group Head of Design Wolfgang Egger.

Fitzgerald had been working at Lamborghini since 1999, shortly after the sports car maker was bought by parent company Volkswagen through Audi AG. Initially hired as marketing manager of the Sant’Agata Bolognese-based company, a role in which he spearheaded the initiative that defined the brand’s values, Fitzgerald was subsequently appointed Brand and Design Director, even though he had no formal training in design.

Fitzgerald's appointment came in 2006, following Luc Donckerwolke's move to head design at SEAT. But Lamborghini was also under the stewardship of Walter de'Silva – credited with the Miura concept while Chief Designer in 2006 – and later Wolfgang Egger, who took over as Audi Group Head of Design in 2007 when de'Silva was promoted to head Volkswagen Group design.

Following Donckerwolke, de'Silva and, most recently, Egger's lead, Fitzgerald set out to create a clear corporate identity and design for the vehicles. During his tenure he has overseen the creation of the limited-edition Reventon, the Estoque four-door and the recently-revealed Sesto Elemento concepts, though variants of the Gallardo (Spyder) and Murcielago (LP640) were also developed under his watch.

Under Fitzgerald's direction Lamborghini also launched Ad Personam, an individualization program that offers buyers the highest level of individuality and exclusivity through a range of options available for both the interior and exterior. Clients can also specify their own colors and materials, as long as it is approved by the company.

"It would be a mistake to reduce the brand to what we have done, there is such a vast potential of creativity here," Fitzgerald said in an interview earlier this year. "A luxury brand is allowed to play in other fields."

Much like rival Italian super sports car maker Ferrari, merchandising has played a huge part in the development of the brand, as have product placements in big Hollywood films. Though most offers were discarded because they were not a good fit for Lamborghini, the films Fitzgerald chose to partner with showed the cars owned by the 'good guy' (The Dark Knight) and used in a luxurious setting (Mission Impossible 3).

"There is still potential to bring our products to the market where we can grow the brand without diluting the brand image and without losing our exclusivity," Fitzgerald said. "We have a clear strategy for the future, we will stick to that and we will weather the current climate. It's about not doing something erratic that will not be understood."

It is not yet known what Fitzgerald's next career step will be. He was unavailable for comment. But one question does beg to be answered: With the recent unveiling of the lightweight but ill-received Sesto Elemento, could he indeed have predicted his own demise?

Related Articles:
Review: Lamborghini Reventón
Design Development: Lamborghini Estoque concept
Interview: Luc Donckerwolke, SEAT Design Director

By Eric Gallina