Bugatti Automobiles SAS
- See also Bugatti for an overview of the marque
Bugatti Automobiles SAS is the name for an automobile manufacturer in Molsheim, Alsace, France. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG and was founded in 1998 as a successor to the legendary Bugatti company.
At the urging of then-chairman, Ferdinand Piëch, Volkswagen purchased the rights to produce cars under the Bugatti marque in 1998. This followed the purchase of Lamborghini (for VW's Audi division), the Rolls-Royce factory in Crewe, England, and the Bentley marque.
VW commissioned ItalDesign's Giorgetto Giugiaro to design a series of concept cars to return the marque to prominence. The first example, the EB 118, was a two-door coupe and was introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 1998. It was followed by the four-door EB 218 touring sedan, introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 1999. Later that year, the 18/3 Chiron was shown at the IAA in Frankfurt. The final Bugatti concept was not an ItalDesign one: VW introduced at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show — the VW-designed EB 18/4 GT.
All of these early concepts featured a 555 bhp DIN (408 kW) 18-cylinder engine. This was the first-ever W-configuration engine on a passenger vehicle, with three banks of six cylinders. It shared many components with Volkswagen's modular engine family.
On December 15, 2000, after favorable public reaction, Volkswagen officially incorporated Bugatti Automobiles SAS with former VW drivetrain chief Karl-Heinz Neumann as president. The company purchased the 1856 Château Saint Jean, formerly Ettore Bugatti's guest house in Dorlisheim, near Molsheim, and began refurbishing it to serve as the company's headquarters. The original factory was still in the hands of Snecma, who were unwilling to part with it. At the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in August, 2000, VW announced that they would instead build a new modern atelier (factory) next (and south) to the Château. The atelier was officially inaugurated on September 3rd, 2005.
Piëch announced the production Bugatti model at the 2001 Geneva Motor Show. To be called the EB 16/4 Veyron, it would be the fastest, most-powerful, and most-expensive car in history. Instead of the large and complex W18 of the concept cars, the Veyron would use a VR6-style W16. First seen in the 1999 Bentley Hunaudières concept car, the W16 would get four turbochargers, producing an expected 1001 metric hp (736 kW). Top speed was promised at 405 km/h (252 mph), and pricing was announced at €1 million (US$1.3 million at the time).
Development continued throughout 2001 and the EB 16/4 Veyron was promoted to "advanced concept" status. In late 2001 Bugatti announced that the car, officially called the Bugatti Veyron 16.4, would go into production in 2003. The car experienced significant problems, however. High-speed stability was difficult, with one prototype destroyed in a crash and another spun out during a press demonstration at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. Production of the Veyron was delayed indefinitely.
Piëch retired that year as chairman of Volkswagen and was replaced by Bernd Pischetsrieder. The new chairman promptly sent the Veyron back to the drawing board for major revisions. Neumann was replaced as Bugatti president by Thomas Bscher in December of 2003, and substantial modifications were made to the Veyron under the guidance of former VW engineer, Bugatti Engineering head Wolfgang Schreiber.
As of April 2005, Veyron production is underway and the car is expected to be released in the second half of the year.
To boost revenues, Bugatti is considering the second model. It won't be a small sports car, as had been rumored. It will be probably a four-seat car with front engine (like the EB 118 and EB 218), and its own unique chassis, and based on the Veyron engine and drivetrain.