AUTOSHOW-Lamborghini unveils new car, Las Vegas store plans

GENEVA, March 4 Tue Mar 4, 2008 7:01am EST

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GENEVA, March 4 (Reuters) - Luxury sports car maker Lamborghini unveiled a new version of its Gallardo model on Tuesday which pollutes less than its predecessor, and disclosed plans to open a retail store in Las Vegas.

It also reiterated a higher sales forecast made earlier this year despite signs the economy in its main market is weakening.

Speaking to Reuters after the unveiling of the Gallardo LP560-4 at the Geneva auto show, Chief Executive Stephan Winkelmann said his customers were rich enough not to let recession fears make them think twice about buying a new car.

After selling a record 2,406 of its hand-made vehicles in 2007, up 15 percent from the previous year, Winkelmann expected to hit another record this year.

"Keeping in mind that we have a long waiting list for our cars, we will achieve more or less 100 cars on top of what we achieved in '07," he said in an interview.

At the Detroit auto show in January, Lamborghini forecast a 5 percent rise in global sales for 2008.

The new Gallardo LP560-4 will not have much of an influenece on this year's sales because it will only go on sale in June, Winkelmann said.

"Our customers who have ordered the old Gallardo will receive this one," he said.

The rise in sales would obviously lead to a higher profit, he said, adding that Audi was hedging against the dollar's weakness to the euro on Lamborghini's behalf.

The United States accounts for about 40 percent of Lamborghini's sales.

A unit of Volkswagen (VOWG.DE), Audi is the parent of Lamborghini.

Audi will publish partial figures for Lamborghini later this month before Lamborghini comes out with fuller results on March 31.

The new car is the first revision of the Gallardo model since 2003. It will cost 146,000 euros ($222,100) before tax.

Lighter and faster than its predecessor, it will also emit 18 percent less CO2.

"We have achieved our first step in our long-term commitment to reduce CO2 emissions," he said, adding that they aimed to cut emissions by 40 percent even though no deadline had been set.

Car makers are under pressure from European authorities to reduce the CO2 emissions from vehicles and face a planned deadline to cut them to 130 grams per kilometre by 2012.

Apart from selling accessories with its charging-bull logo through its showrooms and other channels, Lamborghini will be following Ferrari's FIA.MI example with the opening of its first retail store in Las Vegas in March.

A second one is planned for Melbourne, Australia in June or July.

(Reporting by Gilles Castonguay; Editing by Jason Neely)

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