A nightmare solved
"In the beginning, it was pure chaos," says Bscher. "We counted more than 600 problems with the basic packaging requirements, the whole cooling issue was unresolved, and the promised power output existed only on paper."
Schreiber agrees that not everything went according to plan: "When I joined Bugatti two years ago, the car's fuel pumps delivered barely enough gasoline for 650 hp. Since the engine was running lean, full-throttle test runs were always a big risk. So we had to start from scratch, developing a sophisticated ionic knock-control system as well as more powerful fuel pumps. The vehicle had to go back to the wind tunnel, because it built up so much drag that the car would not even reach its target speed. As a result, changes were made to the underbody, the rear diffuser, the wheelhouses, and the nasal air intakes.
"Even the driveshafts kept running dry, because the rubber bellows that housed the grease were so distorted by the centrifugal force that they touched nearby deflector panels and cut them open. The solenoids and the actuators of the hydraulic system did not work properly. And the original Brembo brakes left something to be desired, too. That's why we ended up fitting 15.7-inch-diameter front and 15.0-inch rear ceramic rotors supplied by SGL and massive eight-piston front and six-piston rear AP Racing calipers."
The future of Bugatti
Even optimists would struggle to call the Veyron a commercial success. After all, no more than thirty to forty cars have been sold so far, depending on whom you ask. According to the Molsheim grapevine, there are still at least ten free slots in the 2006 production plan. Not surprisingly, production now will last for eight years instead of six.
The car is being sold by twenty dealers worldwide. Wherever it makes sense, Bugatti intends to tap the Bentley network. The required down payment is more than $370,000 plus tax, and the warranty is limited to two years and 31,000 miles.
In case of a breakdown, customers can expect a twenty-four-hour flying doctor's service. If, however, structural repair work is required or the engine needs attention, the car must be sent back to its birthplace. The client can specify the paint scheme, the type and size of the seats, and the color--but not the quality--of the leather. That's it.
What's next from Bugatti? First of all, we are likely to see two additional Veyron derivatives: a lighter SuperSport and a version with a folding or removable top. Since the sixteen-cylinder powerplant and the seven-speed DSG are big-investment items, this drivetrain may be used again for the Veyron replacement, which is expected to be a front-engined coupe or sedan. Long-term, Bugatti would love to do a lightweight car that has more in common with classic Molsheim products such as the Type 55 roadster.
"I can promise you right now," says Bscher, "that we are going to make money on the very first car that rolls off the line." Incredulous silence. "Yes, Molsheim is profitable." A pause. "But the investment in Bugatti has long been written off by our parent company."