LAMBORGHINI ACCELERATES TO WIN WIDER AWARENESS;BOUTIQUES, CREDIT CARD AND APPAREL ARE PART OF PLAN TO GAIN ATTENTION

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The U.S. arm of Italian exotic carmaker Automobili Lamborghini is broadening marketing and co-promotions in hopes of building a bigger buyer base and brand awareness.

Lamborghini USA, which sold just 60 cars here last year with a starting price of $249,000, is preparing for an expected dramatic jump in U.S. sales later this decade, when it launches two less expensive vehicles.

CALLING ON THE DONALD

One first comes this fall when the carmaker will advertise on TV with Donald Trump as pitchman, said Robert Braner, president of Lamborghini USA.

In the next 60 days, Lambor-ghini will introduce a co-branded credit card with MBNA America, plus two lines of branded merchandise to be sold at its 24 U.S. dealerships and specialty retail boutiques.

For the first time ever, the small-volume carmaker has joined with a mass marketer. Early this month, Lamborghini kicked off "Team Diablo," a national sweepstakes co-promotion with Circuit City Stores, with advertising from Circuit City's in-house staff.

"We are attempting to broaden our product awareness with highly visible, strategic relationships," Mr. Braner said. "We have a very limited [marketing] budget, so that's why we're looking for strategic relationships to lay the foundation for our [U.S.] expansion."

Lamborghini's methods are misguided, warned auto marketing consultant Philippe Defechereux, president of PhD & Associates. "Given the ultra-selective origins they have, they seem to be casting much too wide a net to nurture their potential buyers here," he said.

In '95, Lamborghini spent $115,000 in measured media, according to Competitive Media Reporting. VL Communications, Rocklin, Calif., is agency of record.

CAFES AND BOUTIQUES

The carmaker will build Cafe Lamborghini, an Italian-style espresso-coffee shop, at its headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla., as a prototype to sell all its branded merchandise. Separately, the company is studying whether to open Lamborghini Boutiques in a deal with one or more specialty retailers to sell the merchandise and display the Diablo model.

The merchandise, including apparel, leather jackets and luggage, will appeal to people who can't afford a Lamborghini car, Mr. Braner said.

The carmaker has also signed a tobacco distributor for the U.S. rollout of its Ferrucio Lamborghini Diablo Classico cigars.

Next month, Lamborghini launches a site on the World Wide Web (http://www.lamborghini.com).

The U.S. now accounts for about a third of Lamborghini's worldwide sales by unit. Mr. Braner projected U.S. sales could reach 600 to 1,000 after the launch of Lamborghini's first sport-utility vehicle, tentatively dubbed Borneo and costing about $90,000, and a new sports car with a base sticker price of about $125,000.

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