DETROIT – Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. President and CEO Stephan Winkelman’s press conference here at the North American International Show was short but sweet to the ears of aficionados of Volkswagen AG’s Italian supercar division.

Unveiled in Europe last year, the auto maker showed off its Murcielago Roadster LP 640, which is slated for dealerships early this spring. The U.S., though only will receive 100 of the new convertibles (with a price tag of $350,000) this year.

Customers should place their orders early. “The order books are full with a wait list of one year,” Winkelman says.

The new LP640 features a longitudinally-mounted V-12, 6.5 L engine that produces 640 hp at 8,000 rpm up from 580 hp in the current Murcielago coupe and roadster. The manual 6-speed transmission tops out at 211 mph (340 km/h) and can go from 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 3.4 seconds with the help of a new electronic launch device, simply called “Thrust.”

Aided by recent refreshes of the Murcielago and the introduction last year of the Gallardo Spyder, Lamborghini sales continued their upward climb under VW’s management, finishing 2006 with 2,087 worldwide sales, up from 1,600 in 2005 –after 41 years of averaging about 250-unit annual sales.

Each of Lamborghini’s markets saw increases in 2006. The U.S. finished with 876 sales, up from 640 in 2005. European sales jumped 50% with 746 units delivered.

Lamborghini also increased the number of showrooms from 65 in late 2004 to 100 in 2006, including a new opening in Moscow.

Six U.S. dealerships were added in 2006 including Detroit, Seattle, Las Vegas, Boston, Houston and Washington. Another five are planned for 2007 in St. Louis; Chicago; Calabasas, CA; Greenwich, CT; and West Palm Beach, FL.

cbanks@wardsauto.com