The French car manufacturer Bugatti survived 2 world wars. Can it outlast the electric crusade?
Does every automaker have to drive electrically?
Industry trends and government regulations point in this direction. No more Naturally aspirated engines. No more turbochargers. Actually no more engines. Instead, mute vans roll happily on the streets and highways of the city, the roar, bark and crack of internal combustion engines is a distant memory.
Not so fast.
The famous French car manufacturer Bugatti has been building high-performance racing cars since 1909. There are no plans to replace the brand’s deafening, rocket-like quad-turbo 16-cylinder engines with electric motors.
Volkswagen AG, the auto company that Bugatti owns, recently stepped up its electric vehicle efforts and reportedly could one new owner for the brand. Can Bugatti’s thirsty 8.0-liter engines harmonize with Volkswagen’s electrification strategy?
“Customers don’t ask for electric Bugattis,” Cedric Davy, Bugatti of the Americas’ chief operating officer, told ABC News. “We live and breathe the W16 [engine]. Many customers say, âThis may be my last chance to own the legendary W16. I don’t know what’s next. ‘”
In June, Bugatti presented the new $ 3.9 million Chiron Super Sport, the newest member of the Chiron family, which was launched in 2016 and replaced the Veyron supercar. The Chiron Super Sport’s 8.0 liter W16 engine delivers 1,577 horsepower and 1,180 lb-ft of torque and has an electronically limited top speed of 273 mph. Redline occurs at 7,100 rpm.
Last year, Bugatti unveiled the $ 4 million Chiron Pur Sport, an unadulterated 1,479 horsepower animal that’s raw, loud, nimble, and designed with shorter gear ratios for faster acceleration and cornering. The fixed wing in the tail spans more than 6 feet in diameter and creates more downforce than previous Chirons. Only 30 Super Sports are produced; 60 for pure sport.
“The Pur Sport is not a rocket that someone puts wheels on,” said the long-time Bugatti test driver Butch Leitzinger to ABC News. “This car is supposed to work for you. I can talk until I’m blue in the face about how easy it is to drive, but nobody believes me and neither should they.”
Bugatti’s Chiron Super Sport 300+ shook the automotive community in 2019 when test driver and Le Mans winner Andy Wallace made history with the car. The slightly modified 1,600 bhp Chiron reached 304,773 mph, the first car to ever reach a speed of over 300, an incredible feat of engineering. The Chiron Super Sport 300+ was immediately declared the “fastest sports car in the world”.
Despite Bugatti’s staggering pricing – over $ 3 million per vehicle – and the COVID-19 pandemic, the company reported record first-quarter sales, shipping more vehicles between January and March than in the first three months of each year in the company’s modern history. Davy said that Pur Sport in particular helped boost sales as 70% of Pur Sport owners in North America are new to the brand.
“It’s a more visceral driving experience and we’re seeing more drivers than collectors with the Pur Sport,” he said.
A Pur Sport owner in France clocked 2,000 miles the weekend he picked up the car, says Davy, proof that these rare vehicles offer comfort and convenience, as well as insane performance and speed.
“The cars are extremely reliable. There are customers with well over 10,000 miles on their Chirons,” he said.
Jason Cammisa, a veteran automotive journalist, said the Chiron could have been even more terrifying and superior with an electric or hybrid drive.
“The Chiron was a missed opportunity. If Bugatti had looked far enough ahead, they would have known that electrification means incredible acceleration values,” he told ABC News. “Gas engines are being abolished by law and it is in Bugatti’s interest to go electric.”
Cammisa determined that the $ 130,000 Tesla Model S plaid sedan, which slings occupants from zero to 60 mph in a reported 1.99 seconds, will knock a Chiron down on the track – a problem for Bugatti and other automakers relying on their performance praise to sell cars.
“There’s no Chiron buyer who comes out of there and isn’t impressed,” he said. “The acceleration of the plaid is painful, terrible, sickening. In the real world, this thing is a magic trick.”
Erin Minoff, a specialist in the auto division of Bonhams in New York, said every industry has its “moment of terror”. However, unlike mainstream brands, Bugatti doesn’t try to sell a lot of cars or to please a lot of people, he said.
“Bugatti has other motivations than what Ford, Mercedes and even Rolls-Royce are trying to pursue,” he told ABC News. “Nobody buys a Bugatti or any super sports car because they are looking for an efficient means of transport or because they are an environmentalist.”
Jalopnik editor-in-chief Rory Carroll doubts Bugatti will turn its business model upside down to accommodate government policy. Volkswagen had greater ambitions for the ailing brand when it acquired the rights to Bugatti in May 1998, he argued.
“Bugatti was practically a dead brand when Volkswagen bought it and was revived to build a car that would break a speed record and do it comfortably,” he told ABC News. “Bugatti demonstrates technical ability and attracts talent for the VW Group.”
Cammisa and Minoff both pointed out that the most in-demand toy for the super-rich right now is non-electric or even a hybrid. It’s a six-speed manual, mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, lightweight, high-speed supercar that develops 650 hp from a naturally aspirated V12 engine at 12,100 rpm. The T.50, the latest creation from Gordon Murray, the brilliant designer of the famous McLaren F1, costs $ 2.6 million and all 100 units sold out within 48 hours Prototype debut.
“There were several bespoke EV hypercars – Rimac and Pininfarinas Battista – and nobody wanted one,” said Cammisa.
Bugatti surprisingly survived two world wars, workers’ strikes, the deaths of its founder Ettore Bugatti and his son Jean Bugatti, the designated heir of the company, the sale of the Molsheim plant, bankruptcy and multiple owners. But the biggest threat to its existence could be the electric motor. However, Bugatti has an “enduring pull” that Carroll says will drive fans to want more from the company in the years to come.
“An electrified Bugatti – that is not the point of the brand,” he said. “There is something very human about Bugatti’s superlatives and achievements. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bugatti never built an electric vehicle.”
Minoff added, âEnthusiasts want the fastest, most instinctive machine they can buy. Electric vehicles are like household appliances. Bugatti will continue to build these hyper-luxury super sports cars. “