By Paul Lienert and Andreas Cremer and Jennifer Clark
GENEVA/DETROIT, March 6 Millionaire tractor maker Ferruccio Lamborghini wanted to build a better, faster sports car in Italy than rival Enzo Ferrari when he established Automobili Lamborghini in 1963.
Half a century later, though both founders are long dead, the corporate rivalry continues unabated at the Geneva Auto Show, where Lamborghini, now an affiliate of the Volkswagen Group, on Tuesday countered the million-euro LaFerrari "hyper-hybrid" supercar with its own "extremely exclusive" Veneno two-seater.
It may not be the fastest car on display at Geneva's Palexpo - Veneno and LaFerrari are both said to exceed 350 km/h - but the new Lamborghini is among the most expensive, with a pre-tax sticker of 3 million euros ($3.9 million), triple the cost of the Ferrari.
Only three Venenos will be built, and all three are pre-sold, the company said.
The Veneno is also way over the top in terms of styling, with scissors-style doors, massive rear wing, roof-mounted air scoop and "shark fin" stabilizer.
"This is one of the most extreme cars we've done to date," Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann said in an interview Wednesday at the Geneva show.
"I like sports cars, but this is too much for me," said Urs Weiger, a Bern resident.
Swiss law student Victor Argand added: "If I had the money, I wouldn't buy this car, I'd buy the Ferrari."
Unlike the LaFerrari, which pairs a petrol engine with an electric motor to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, the Veneno eschews any pretext of being "green".
Its 6.5 litre V12 engine, which is mounted behind the seats, drives all four wheels through a seven-speed transmission.
The Veneno is rated at 740 horsepower, well below the Ferrari's 963 hp, but its ultra light weight helps the racy-looking two-door rocket from 0 to 100 km/h in just 2.8 seconds. Ferrari claims its hyper-hybrid makes the same sprint in "less than 3 seconds."
Like the Ferrari, the newest Lamborghini benefits from extensive use of carbon fibre composite in the chassis, body panels and cockpit. The space-age material, widely used in race cars, not only trims weight, but increases structural strength and crashworthiness.
Like the Aventador model on which it is based, and many previous Lamborghinis, the Veneno borrows its name from a famous Spanish fighting bull.
According to Lamborghini, the original Veneno gained notoriety nearly 100 years ago when the bull "fatally wounded the famous torero Jose Sanchez Rodriguez during a bullfight in the arena Sanlucar de Barrameda" in Andalusia in 1914.
Lamborghini's logo still carries the imprint of a "raging bull" in contrast to Ferrari's more civilized "prancing horse".