Bugatti became Croatian, but Alsace’s hopes remained

Bugatti came under the Croatian flag. The Alsatian car manufacturer, owned by Volkswagen since 1998, announced on November 2 its merger with a joint venture created by Porsche and Rimac Automobili. The headquarters of the new entity is in Sveta Nedelja, a suburb of Zagreb. The Rimac group, an equipment manufacturer specializing in the design of electric vehicles, holds 55% of the shares of the total. Following a financial package and cross-shareholding swap involving Volkswagen, its subsidiaries Porsche AG and Bugatti Automobiles SAS and Rimac Automobili, Porsche AG retains 45% of Bugatti-Rimac.

“Nothing changes for the production of the Chiron and its derivatives, where we still have to sell the last 40 units built in Molsheim until 2024”declared Christophe Piochon, director of the Molsheim plant and now president of the Bugatti brand, in The gallery. Christophe Piochon will also direct, from Alsace, the group’s Croatian factory where the very small series of electric “hypercars” are produced under the Rimac brand.

Chiron in limited series

Stephan Winkelmann, outgoing president of Bugatti Automobiles, has returned to the presidency of Lamborghini, the other sports car brand of the Volkswagen group. Arriving in Molsheim in 2018, he is the instigator of a series of special editions derived from the Bugatti Chiron (Sport, Pur Sport, Super Sport), highly profitable (Divo, Centodieci) and sometimes limited to one copy ( The Black Car, sold for 11 million euros).

Since its launch in 2017, buyers have spent an average of 2.8 million euros, including 300,000 euros on options, excluding taxes, for the Chiron, whose 16-cylinder engine will generate between 1,500 and 1,600 horsepower.

The merger with Rimac raises several concerns

In Alsace, the rapprochement with Croatian Rimac raised questions, but few concerns.

“We are pleased to join Rimac, which has the power of innovation and technologies that we do not have. We will see how we can integrate these new technologies”warned Christophe Pichon.

The Bugatti-Rimac joint venture has 435 employees, 140 of whom work in Molsheim. 25 employees are responsible for assembling the Bugatti Chiron, whose series will end after 500 units have been produced. Molsheim also has teams dedicated to logistics (20 employees), quality, after-sales service and administration. 180 employees from the Volkswagen development center in Wolfsburg will bolster the workforce. Rimac-Bugatti did not specify whether these reinforcements will be positioned in Molsheim or in Croatia.

Head of electric

At Adira, the regional economic development agency that supported Bugatti’s return to Alsace when Volkswagen relaunched it, the merger with equipment supplier and car manufacturer Rimac is seen as a development opportunity.

The future of heat engines is necessarily limited to hypercars because the law is changing. Bugatti getting one of the leaders in electric is great news.”studies Frank Becker, Deputy CEO of Adira.

Porsche’s presence in the new entity’s capital appears reassuring and the personality of founder Mate Rimac, who some have compared to a new Elon Musk, is seen as an asset. “We know Mate Rimac. We tried to convince him to build a factory in Grand-Est, before the Covid crisis. Our discussions stopped when Porsche entered the game”said Olivier Eck, director of Invest Eastern France, the regional agency for innovation and investment sourcing.

“As an automotive supplier, Rimac seems to suffer from not being established in the middle of the European automotive manufacturing basin. This basin is not in Croatia, but here. I keep thinking about the local development potential for Rimac, positioning itself as a leading automotive supplier”explains Olivier Eck.

Back in 2019, Stephan Winkelmann sketched the Bugatti of the future. “It will be a car for everyday use, in a completely different segment from the Chiron. One of the options being considered is a 100% electric car. Our brand is ripe for it”he explained to The gallery. Stephan Winkelmann estimated the time needed to develop a new model and build a workshop for its assembly at four years.

In Molsheim, the company has enough land to fit a second workshop or build a larger capacity factory. “We have no confirmation of this potential transformation into a real project”, angry Olivier Eck. The replacement for the Chiron may have common genes with the hypercar made in Croatia. Molsheim used to be indeed competing against Zagreb.