On any other occasion, I would take industry gossip with a heavy helping of salt. Dead Sea levels of salt. But when CAR Magazine’s Georg Kacher gets a scoop, I’d tend to listen. His latest exclusive claims that the Volkswagen Group is planning to sell Bugatti to Rimac. Not only does it sound audacious but it is a plausible and sensible move.
Deal of the decade?
According to Kacher’s report, the German giant is no longer willing to further fund its French crown jewel. With its budgets tied up in its electrification push, there is little left for vanity projects like Bugatti. Instead, it plans to sell Bugatti off to Croatian electric powertrain experts Rimac Automobili through Porsche.
Currently, Porsche holds a 15.5 per cent stake in Rimac, though they aren’t the only ones. Hyundai, Jaguar, Magna, and Koenigsegg too are counted amongst Rimac’s investors. Yet the company is still privately owned by its founder 32-year-old Mate Rimac, who holds a 51 per cent majority interest. The report, however, claims that Porsche wants to get a bigger share of Rimac by offering them Bugatti itself.
Rimac – The “Tesla” of Europe
Founded in 2009, Rimac has made a name for itself in developing battery packs and electric drivetrains. In 2011, the company made waves by producing its first all-electric supercar, the Concept One, of which eight were made. More recently, Rimac followed it up with a 1408kW successor, the C Two, in 2018. Though the model is yet to enter production.
Rimac’s gamble on producing its all-electric supercars certain paid off in attracting the attention of big-name automakers. Since then, the small company has had Aston Martin, Koenigsegg, Hyundai, and Pininfarina knocking on its door in search of its expertise in electric powertrains.
With the Volkswagen Group betting its future in electric drivetrains and hunkering down for lean year ahead in doing so, handing Bugatti to Rimac in exchange for closer ties might be the logical thing to do. Not only for Volkswagen but for Bugatti.
Bugatti’s ongoing existential crisis
Currently, Bugatti is in an existential crisis. A situation that has exacerbated with the introduction of the Chiron. Ever since destroying the speed record so convincingly with the Veyron, Bugatti has no idea where to take the brand next. How do you build a brand that is only known for breaking speed records? You certainly can’t go downmarket with Bentley and Lamborghini being part of the fold.
Bugatti’s head honcho, Stephan Winkelmann, artfully dodged this apparent listlessness by doing his usual habit of creating rebodied special editions. A trick he perfected at Lamborghini. However, there are only so many different supercar buyer demographics out there.
With front-engine sedan, grand tourer, and SUV models ruled out, Bugatti is quickly running out of space to manoeuvre itself. When Bugatti revealed the driver-focused Chiron Pur Sport, to join its special driver-focused Divo, it was clear that its model range was resembling an ouroboros.
And that is not to mention how electric performance cars are dominating the conversation today. Even teaching Bugatti owners a thing or two about the power of volts.
An all-electric Bugatti future?
If Rimac were to acquire Bugatti, it would give the illustrious brand a chance to start in a new direction. It might not even have to expand its portfolio to justify its existence since it is not beholden to shareholders.
Considering that more and more car companies are shifting towards all-electric cars, Rimac is in a good position to be able to foster a brand like Bugatti. What’s more, is that the company might continue on Bugatti’s existence as an ultra-exclusive niche maker.
“But Rimac would discard of Bugatti’s mega W16 quad-turbo engine”, I hear you say. So what? The W16 was Ferdinand Piëch’s pet project to make his mark as the undisputed car czar. Unfortunately for the world, Piëch is no longer with us, and the company he left behind is no longer the same one he fostered.
Maybe it is time to let go and move on. Let Piëch and his bank-busting creations return to history. However, considering how upset he was at Wolfgang Durheimer’s refusal to push for electrified drivetrains at Audi, Piëch might have approved of an electric drivetrain expert being handed the reins of Bugatti. It would be an ironic twist from beyond the grave for the man who reshaped Volkswagen.
A positive future in the making?
For now, all this is mere speculation. Aside from Kacher’s report, there is little to suggest that Rimac would take on such a huge undertaking. Not to mention, the VW Group is looking into selling off more of its more illustrious collection of brands. Amongst those being Lamborghini, Seat, ItalDesign, Bentley, and Ducati.
This developing situation, if it is happening at all, might take a while to play out. Even so, the possibilities are very appealing for both Bugatti and Rimac. Finally, Bugatti might find a viable future beyond Piëch.