Bugatti set to change brands, moving from VW to Rimac

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It is said that VW Group is on the verge of offloading Bugatti to Croatian electromobility powerhouse Rimac Automobili. Bugatti – the luxury brand best known for today’s 16-cylinder hyper cars and its pre-WWII automotive masterpieces – will likely be transferred to Rimac via Porsche, in exchange for a bigger share in Europe’s answer to Tesla. Sources say VW executives approved the deal last week, but it has yet to be signed off by the supervisory board.

This would have never happened under the late Ferdinand Piech, former boss of both VW’s managing board and then its supervisory chairman. After all, Bugatti was his master’s favourite toy in a collection to which the Austrian patriarch had added such prestigious brands as Bentley and Lamborghini during the course of his reign. But Piech fell out with Volkswagen in 2015 and passed away four years later.

According to the report by Car Magazine UK, Volkswagen Group no longer wants to lavish money and manpower on the so-called hobby brands acquired by the former CEO. Instead, all resources must be devoted to fund the massive investment programme in the future of motoring – electrification, digitalisation and autonomous driving.

If the future of motoring is electric – not 1500hp petrol-powered hyper cars that sell in the hundreds – then getting their hooks further into Rimac, a company with a reputation for stellar EV tech, sounds very beneficial indeed.

Back in 2018, Porsche acquired a ten per cent share in Rimac Automobili. In 2019, they bought another 5.5 per cent. By doing so, Porsche is in good company: other investors include Hyundai, Jaguar, Koenigsegg and Magna. Indeed, when CAR visited earlier this year, founder Mate Rimac counted 15 car companies using its tech know-how. Not bad for a company which began life in 2009, but now employs more than 600 people who specialise in electromobility, battery development and performance electronics.

The company details key strengths such as the configuration of highly efficient battery packs, the development of bespoke e-motors, innovations in terms of driver assistance, connectivity and infotainment as well as systems integration and control.

Mate Rimac told us that his focus on performance gives his company the edge. ‘Our powertrain systems are the highest power density, and the highest energy density. If you need to have as much power in as little space as possible, you come to us. HQ is on a non-descript industrial estate near Zagreb.

Rimac may be dubbed Europe’s Tesla, but while Elon Musk’s firm has churned out more than 600,000 Model 3 and Y cars in the last three years, the Croatians have made but a handful of electric hyper cars. The first was the Concept One, introduced in 2011 and of which only eight units were made. The latest is the awesome 1914bhp C-Two coupe which has yet to enter production.

Rimac isn’t yet publicly traded, with the founder holding a 51 per cent majority interest. But there is an enormous buzz around the company – the last funding round pegged its value north of £500m. The biggest secondary shareholders are Porsche, the Camel Group (a Chinese battery producer) and a Chinese investor. While the true value of Rimac is yet to-be-determined by an IPO, Bugatti is probably worth €500m in today’s depressed market. But perhaps there is no need for any money to flow at all in the deal.

And, as reported in CAR’s August 2020 issue, the Wolfsburg grapevine repeats that Bugatti may not be the only brand set to depart VW for new hunting grounds.

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