- A report from the U.K.’s Car magazine says VW is in talks to sell Bugatti to Croatian EV startup Rimac; Bugatti has refused comment.
- C/D spoke with CEO Stephan Winkelmann before this story broke, and he commented that it would make sense if a Bugatti model to be developed in the future were all-electric.
- Rimac has already built an electric hypercar, the C_Two, with nearly 2000 horsepower, so it’s not out of the question that it would look toward Bugatti.
Bugatti is refusing to comment on a report in the U.K.’s Car magazine that the Volkswagen Group is planning to offload its grandest subsidiary to Croatian performance EV maker Rimac. Given that Bugatti’s entire portfolio is currently powered by a quad-turbocharged W-16 engine, that doesn’t seem like the most obvious fit—but Rimac is intent on producing an even more powerful all-electric hypercar, so there could actually be some synergies.
“This is a rumor, and we don’t comment on rumors,” a Bugatti spokesperson said. “I can say that we are profitable and have had very positive results over the last two years.”
Car and Driver did get the chance to interview Bugatti boss Stephan Winkelmann at an event in Italy this weekend. That was before this sale story broke, but some of his answers are very interesting in light of this new development.
Winkelmann confirmed that development on what is meant to be Bugatti’s second model line has been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This might well be an EV—Volkswagen Group insiders have told C/D that discussions have taken place between Bugatti and Rimac on sharing technology—and Winkelmann admits he sees a straight switch from gasoline to electric power as making more sense than hybridization.
“You have to make the right step at the right time,” he told us. “I think that a [straight switch] would be the better one, as hybrid brings additional weight and complexity.”
What Do Bugatti Buyers Want?
But Winkelmann was also adamant that Bugatti’s current buyers are entirely happy with their use of W-16 powerplants. “For the super sports cars for sure, they want internal-combustion engines, and this is also our feeling,” he said. Rimac’s expertise on performance EV powertrains is world-leading, but it is harder to see how the Croatian brand would cope with the engineering challenges around getting Bugatti’s hugely complex gasoline engine through increasingly tough emissions standards.
Other issues with a potential acquisition include the fact that Rimac is working closely with other automakers, several of which already own a stake in it. Porsche has 15 percent of Rimac’s stock, with Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, and Koenigsegg all holding smaller shares. Rimac is also working with clients including Pininfarina Automobili, which is planning to use the C_Two’s underpinnings as the basis for its forthcoming Battista megacar. Would it be possible to also use the same architecture for a Bugatti?
Volkswagen made a huge investment in Bugatti when it was controlled by Ferdinand Piëch. Consider that the Veyron project alone cost around $1.6 billion to make 450 cars. So it would seem strange for the larger company to get rid of its prestigious subsidiary just when it has become modestly profitable. Bugatti is still able to sell every car it can produce, and Winkelmann’s strategy of creating more dynamically focused models seems to have resonated well with the company’s clientele. To surrender control of Bugatti could potentially bring leadership in the race to produce the high-performance EVs that will ultimately persuade supercar buyers to shun combustion. If so, Volkswagen Group’s leadership could well see it as a price worth paying.
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