MILAN -- Lamborghini is upending tradition with a new sport-utility vehicle, joining Bentley and Maserati in super-sizing their supercars to make more of a mark in China.
The Italian sports-car maker will unveil an SUV study at the Beijing Auto Show in April, nearly two decades after discontinuing the so-called Rambo Lambo military vehicle, said a person familiar with the company's plans.
A production version may be available by 2016, said the person, who declined to be identified before the public announcement.
"Chinese customers love their big cars," Christian Mastro, Lamborghini's general manager for the Asia-Pacific region, said in a phone interview. "All the brands are making cars more specific for the Chinese market."
Bentley will display its own SUV concept at the Geneva auto show next month, a person familiar with the matter said. The model may roll into showrooms by 2015 if parent Volkswagen Group approves the project this year.
Bentley and Lamborghini, also owned by VW Group, are playing catch-up. Fiat's Maserati will start production in 2013 of a Jeep-based SUV, currently called the Kubang, while Ferrari last year added the 260,000-euro ($344,000) FF family car, its largest model.
The moves reflect a shift east, breaking with traditions developed in Europe in pursuit of a new class of wealthy consumers in countries like China and Russia.
The cars will be available globally, with China the target market.
"Luxury cars are at the top of the consumption desires of rich Chinese," said Giuliano Noci, vice rector for the China campus of Milan Polytechnic. Since wealthy Chinese consumers have a limited history with the European brands, "the luxury-car makers can dare something new."