Chrysler Adds to Foreign Stable, Acquires 100% of Lamborghini

Times Staff Writer

Chrysler, moving to further expand its international ties, said Thursday it had acquired Lamborghini, the Italian manufacturer of high-performance--and extremely high-priced--sports cars.

Chrysler didn’t disclose the price it paid for the privately held firm but said it had reached an agreement with the Mimran family of Geneva, the present owners, to acquire 100% of Lamborghini.

Lamborghini will thus join Maserati, another tiny Italian sports car maker, in the Chrysler stable. Chrysler bought a 5% stake in Maserati in 1984, and last year increased its holdings to 15.5%, while also obtaining an option to gain majority control of Maserati by 1995.


Maserati is developing a $30,000 two-seat luxury convertible for Chrysler, to be called the Chrysler TC. It is due to go on sale next fall.

Lamborghini is a tiny operation. It produces just 450 cars a year in Italy and expects to sell only 176 in the United States this year. But the cars it does sell carry intimidating sticker prices. The high-performance Countach, its best-selling model, goes for $127,000.

While Chrysler is developing connections to such small European specialty car companies, it is also strengthening its ties to foreign giants as well. Mitsubishi Motors of Japan, partly owned by Chrysler, now supplies Chrysler with Japanese-built cars, vans and trucks. Chrysler has also opened a new relationship with Renault, the French auto maker.

After agreeing to sell its 46.1% stake in American Motors to Chrysler earlier this year, Renault and Chrysler have also decided to study the possibility of establishing joint projects in Europe and around the world. For instance, Chrysler officials have said it is possible that Chrysler will sell U.S.-built cars in Europe through Renault. The AMC board met Thursday to continue consideration of Chrysler’s bid to buy the rest of the company, but there was no announcement.

Chrysler said Thursday that Lamborghini will remain independent under Chrysler’s automotive subsidiary. It will retain its current management and its own distribution and dealer networks in the United States. Chrysler has no plans to sell Lamborghini cars through Chrysler dealerships, a Chrysler spokesman said.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said Gerald Greenwald, chairman of Chrysler Motors, Chrysler’s automotive unit. “And that is precisely the philosophy that will guide us in our relationship with Lamborghini.”


Chrysler is not the only American auto maker that has been on the prowl recently for small, highly profitable European car companies. General Motors acquired Lotus of Great Britain last year and also made an unsuccessful bid for Jaguar. Ford, meanwhile, lost out to Fiat in its bid to buy Alfa-Romeo of Italy.