Toby Venter, best known as the person who placed the iconic Porsche brand firmly on the map in South Africa and set it on a growth path few could have imagined when he obtained the franchise for his company, LSM Distributors, in 1994. But that is just a tip of the iceberg that is Toby Venter. He has also added three more brands from the Volkswagen Group’s prestige armoury in the form of Ducati motorcycles (five years ago), Bentley (three years ago), and now Lamborghini cars.
Putting such a group of high-end brands together would be a major achievement for any normal person. But Toby is driven like a Duracell bunny. He never stops. His love of motorsport and his shrewd business brain saw him bid successfully to take over the rather rundown Kyalami racing circuit when it was auctioned four years ago.
He was not satisfied with just renovating this famous facility, but rather rebuild it completely. This included adding a world-class conference centre and bringing the racing circuit up to the latest FIA standards.
A former factory superbike racer, Toby is also an excellent racing driver and still finds time to get behind the wheel of a Porsche in competition when possible. He has also added an ex-works Bentley Continental GT3 racer to his stable but has not debuted it in a race as yet.
A number of local championship races have been staged at Kyalami in the past couple of years, but recently Toby announced that the once-famous Kyalami Nine-Hour race will return to the track on 1-3 November 2019. It will be the final race out of five rounds in the Intercontinental GT Championship. The other races are the 24 hours at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium, 12 hours at Bathurst in Australia, 10 hours at Suzuka in Japan and an eight-hour race at Laguna Seca in the USA.
This will place the Kyalami circuit firmly back on the map for international motor racing and this could lead to other major events coming to the Midrand track.
Lamborghini joins the LSM stable
Over the years the representation of the more exotic car brands in South Africa has been somewhat haphazard: sometimes it has been with an independent dealer and sometimes a group. Lamborghini, Maserati, and Lotus are some of the brands that have suffered from stop-start marketing in South Africa.
This is now changing for Lamborghini as it gets on a solid footing in the local market as the latest brand to come under the control of Toby Venter’s LSM Distributors.
A facility has already been set up in Johannesburg and now Cape Town has the first Lamborghini showroom in the Middle East and Africa region that complies with the brand’s latest, global corporate identity requirements. The Cape Town showroom and adjacent service centre were opened officially by Stefano Domenicali, who is chairman and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, of Italy back in July. A third Lamborghini outlet is to be built in Umhlanga, KZN.
Lamborghini currently has 150 dealers in 50 countries, with 90% of its production going to export markets.
Domenicali, formerly in charge of the Ferrari Formula 1 team, was accompanied by several members of his senior management team from the Lamborghini headquarters in Sant’ Agata Bolognese, in Italy, to launch the new dealership to customers, potential customers and the media in Cape Town, thus emphasising the importance of having an established distributorship for Lamborghini in South Africa.
Urus unveiled in SA
The opportunity was taken to unveil Lamborghini’s new “Super SUV”, the Urus, to the public and the media at the opening of the new Lamborghini showroom and service facility in Cape Town. The sleek Urus combines coupé styling with a commanding presence on the road, offering the features of a super-luxury SUV with scintillating supercar performance. It is currently the fastest SUV production car in the world, with a top speed of 309km/h.
The starting price for the Urus is R3.45-million, with many options available.
The name Urus is derived from Taurus, the bull star sign, under which the founder of the company, Ferruccio Lamborghini, was born.
Speaking at the media conference Domenicali said that the Urus SUV was such a significant addition to the Lamborghini range of super sports cars that it has required doubling the size of the factory in Italy from 80 000m2 to 160 000m2. Annual Lamborghini sales are expected to more than double from the 3 815 units sold in 2017 to about 8 000 in the short to medium term. Employment at the factory is predicted to increase by 500 people over the next two years.
Last year’s global sales were 10% up on the 2016 volume and the first half of 2018 is showing growth of 10% over the first six months of 2017 and this was before the launch of Urus. Last year also marked the first time that Lamborghini Automobili’s annual turnover exceeded €1-billion. It was 11% higher than the turnover in 2016 and came from sales of Aventador and Hurracan models only. Adding in Urus is expected to boost sales and turnover very significantly.
As if running all the brands in the LSM stable is not enough, Toby has also bought a wine farm in the Stellenbosch region as a side-line and it is already well known as the producer of a comprehensive range of Kyalami wines in addition to the traditional Uva Mira fine vintages from the mountain vineyard.