SUVs, Australia... and social responsibility.
Bugatti President, Stephan Winkelmann says the time has come for the supercar manufacturer to look at adding a second model which could be an SUV and will almost certainly be electrified. And Australia is on its plans.
“Electrification is a big challenge but we have to decide what to do next. It’s not important for us to be the first or the last but it is important to be there at the right time when people are not only ready for the technology but also when the technology is ready for Bugatti,” he said.
While stopping short of confirming, an insider has suggested Bugatti is looking at setting up shop in Australia in the wake of the revised importation rules that allow for low volume and left-hand drive cars to be sold through the official distributor.
Mr Winkelmann was speaking to CarAdvice as he visited Dubai on the first stop of the company’s 110th Anniversary tour with the €16.7 million La Voiture Noire Geneva show car. He said the next Bugatti needs to be more broadly focused than the 500 build run of the AU$4.6 million Chiron.
“We have to see down the road what is giving us the USP (unique selling point) of the future, and we are looking into every opportunity. It could be hybridisation, it could be full electrification, different body styles, but it must be something which gives us a future beyond Chiron.”
The former Lamborghini President who championed the introduction of the Urus said that SUV entered a segment which represented the highest potential for Lamborghini and is something which needs to be considered at Bugatti.
“Bugatti is ready for a second model. We need to see if this is something we can achieve, in terms of investments and development costs, which is not an easy task. You have to increase your team, your production and within the VW Group, you have to see what their highest priority is, so we are constantly trying our best to be in that mix.”
If Bugatti were to go down the SUV path, it would not follow other VW Group members by borrowing the same MLB platform that underpins the Porsche Cayenne, Bentley Bentayga, Audi Q7/Q8, VW Touareg and Lamborghini Urus.
“For a brand like ours, we would not share platforms, as I see our next car will be a stand-alone car. While this is good for our customers and for the future of the brand, it’s also more expensive.
“We would need to expand our factory because every Bugatti will continue to be built at Molsheim. That’s our heritage and part of the ownership experience is to take delivery at the Chateau.”
Above: If Bugatti is to have an SUV, the Winkelmann-championed Lamborghini Urus suggests we needn't be too offended by the idea...
However, when it comes to hybrid options, don’t expect a stop-gap solution which would allow the company to slip under the environmental radar.
“If you just want a booster that’s only for acceleration then you cannot drive it as an electric vehicle which is not helping the situation. It’s important that we achieve all the homologation and emission rules. We can no longer just say ‘whatever it takes and the customer is ready to pay.’ No, because it’s about social responsibility and about how the others look at you while you are driving this car.
“As for keeping volume low enough to avoid CO2 limits, that depends on which market we are talking about and whether that market sees us as part of the VW Group or a standalone manufacturer.
“Hybridisation is good for the time being but it adds 250kg and returns a range of just 50km. You have to remove a lot of weight from a car that is already as light as you can make it and then you need to find space for the battery. This is not a long-term solution.”
Winkelmann lead the way during Lamborghini’s forays into carbon-fibre development and its focus on weight reduction, which he now sees as Bugatti’s role within the VW Group to develop and share among their other brands.
“What we offer the VW Group is the expertise of lightweight materials because we are so extreme in the development of our own car.”
In order to keep producing outrageous cars like the Chiron, international legislation is forcing the arm of supercar manufacturers to offset it with sensible products in order to not only keep the company’s image inline with social perceptions, but also to meet ever-tightening emission regulations. And this is where the added model will sit.
“If congestion charges are on the single car (owner) and not on the VW Group, or if it’s unlawful to enter the city, that tells us that we have to diversify to survive,” he said.
As a company that plays on its heritage, it’s worth noting Bugatti’s past wasn’t solely about fast coupés. It also made luxury cars, convertibles, GTs, race cars and limousines. Bugatti’s mandate was to provide pretty much anything a customer with enough money demanded, and that was about half a century before the term ‘supercar’ was invented.
In light of the recent talk of speed limiters and China’s EV-only policy for certain cities, be prepared for a very different Bugatti coming next – maybe even announced as part of its 110th Anniversary celebrations later this year.