Stephan Winkelmann has spent the bulk of his career expanding the portfolio of low volume automakers with high-dollar, high-performance models, first at Lamborghini and now at Bugatti. As the president of Bugatti since January of 2018, Winkelmann has presided over the launch of two über exclusive variants of the Chiron—the Divo and the one-off La Voiture Noire—a strategy that he used with great success at Lamborghini. But with only one vehicle line at present, Winkelmann knows that to move Bugatti beyond just a vanity project for the Volkswagen Group, he needs to expand. While it remains to be seen if that will happen, in the meantime, expect more souped up, chop-topped, and otherwise modified Chirons in the near future.
Our own Georg Kacher recently had a chance to spend a few minutes with Winkelmann in Italy to talk about the near future of Bugatti.
Automobile Magazine: Where will Bugatti be five years from now?
SW: I don’t know in detail. But I expect that we shall be putting the finishing touches to the evolution of the Chiron.
What kind of evolution?
SW: There are several alternatives under consideration. More power is always an option, as is less weight. Additional body styles are also an opportunity.
In an earlier conversation, you mentioned an extreme metamorphosis of the Chiron which would crack the 500-kph [310-mph] threshold. Fact or fiction?
SW: It is still a possibility. But there are quite a few ifs involved, like if someone is willing to supply suitable tires, or if the return on investment meets the target.
You’d need a lot more power to get to 500 kph—is that extra grunt going to be electric?
SW: Eventually, yes. Right now, no. It takes smaller, lighter, and more potent energy cells to make such an upgrade work.
Where are you with regard to the three-door, ultra-premium crossover SUV which may become Bugatti´s second product?
SW: The design is done. Some potential customers have seen it, and they liked it. One or two influential people up in Wolfsburg were complimentary about it. But at this point there is no budget and no decision.
Why a crossover? Why not an all-electric hypercar? Or a contemporary recreation of the Royale [ like the one illustrated above]?
SW: Because crossovers are in strong demand. So far, nobody is doing a high-performance, high-end luxury CUV. Because of the battery situation, it’s too early for an electric hypercar. Having said that, the more generously packaged CUV would almost certainly be battery-powered. With the Galibier concept, Bugatti has in 2011 demonstrated that a superluxury sedan is compatible with our portfolio. But time has moved on, and I’m skeptical that a sedan can generate enough volume in today’s commercial environment. After all, we’re not talking 100 cars a year here, but 600 to 800.
What’s going to happen when the Chiron reaches the end of its life cycle?
SW: It’s too early to tell. We may stretch that cycle via an interim update. We may even use this amazing engine in a replacement. Owners keep asking me whether and when there will be an open-top version. Well, if the roof must come off, this can only be done properly with a reengineered and much stiffer monocoque. So let’s wait and see.