Stephan Winkelmann has a record of moving luxury brands in new directions – the Lamborghini Urus was his brainchild – but also getting things done quickly.
Bugatti had previously done extensive work on a four-door fastback which was previewed by the Galibier (below) concept back in 2009, and – after a protracted gestation – was reportedly green-lit for production by Winkelmann’s predecessor, Wolfgang Durheimer.
But although Winkelmann admits he still hopes to expand the Bugatti family, he is also dropping broad hints that any second model is less likely to be a saloon or fastback.
"For me the brand is ready to do more than one model," he told CarAdvice when we interviewed him in California last week, "but we will have to see if we can find [the investment], this is something we are still waiting for because the [Volkswagen] Group has significant investments in projects like autonomous driving and electric cars."
So far, so obvious, but then it gets more interesting:
"It's clear that if we do something different from a super sports car, something different from the Chiron, then it would not be enough just to be in love with one type of car," Winkelmann said.
"We would look very different at every body style and also regional demand, see what is going up and what is going down, and also in terms of pricing. We would not put our money into something which is fading."
Winkelmann has been reading up on Bugatti's history since taking the job and admits that a saloon in the spirit of the 1927 Royale would be "very credible, I know a lot of people would like it", but declining sales of luxury four-doors around the world and the rise in demand for SUVs would make it seem more likely that a super-SUV would be the ultimate choice.
Regardless of what it is, if it happens Winkelmann says that any Bugatti would have to be positioned to offer an ultimate level of performance for whichever type of vehicle it is.
Having spent 11 years at Lamborghini, a job he says he didn't want to leave, Winkelmann spent two years as head of Audi Sport before coming to Bugatti. The contrast with his last gig is enormous: Audi builds thousands of R8s and RS models every year, while Bugatti produced just 70 cars in 2017. Yet Winkelmann also seems far happier in his new role.
"Audi Sport was very interesting," he says, "but Bugatti for me is again an opportunity to move a brand. In one lifetime to have the experience of Lambo, Audi Sport and now Bugatti is incredible, because it is so far above any of the others. Anything you do has to be above the expectations of the people you are dealing with, both inside and outside the company. Yes, I like it."
Well, wouldn't you?
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