The annual Geneva Motor Show took place earlier this month and this year’s convention was highlighted by Bugatti’s unveiling of the ‘La Voiture Noire’ – the world’s most expensive new car and your most likely chance to have a ‘Batmobile’. Like the ‘Dark Knight’ car, this vehicle might only be affordable by Bruce Wayne himself or other billionaires, since it will have a record price tag of €16.7 million. The new model follows the quad-turbo W16 8.0-liter engine of the Divo, but with 1,500 horsepower and 1,600 Newton-meters (1,180 pound-feet)
However, as impressive and headline-grabbing as “the black car” has been, an interview given by Bugatti President Stephan Winkelmann weeks earlier could have a further reaching impact. Winkelmann revealed how the French marque was looking to enter the electric car market, and therefore produce a more affordable model.
“I would see us doing a battery electric vehicle,” Winkelmann said. “There, the balance between performance and comfort is much more important, and it’s about daily usability.”
Winkelmann offered few details on the project, like price point, performance, or chassis, but insisted Bugatti had started the research and analysis process. “Let’s see what we can do,” he said. “I’m hoping for the best.”
Now, before we all start putting our spare coins in the piggy bank awaiting Bugatti’s more “affordable” electric car, it’s worth noting that affordable is sure to be relative. After all, this is the company that brought us the Veyron at €1 million, the Chiron at €2.4 million, and the somewhat slightly steeper Divo – which cost a cool €5 million.
Even if the electric – or more accurately, partially electric – model is aimed at “daily usability” and thus will not be focused on the supersonic-like speeds of its predecessors, it’s safe to assume Bugatti are unlikely to offer a car for any less than €500,000 – but that’s just an assumption.
What is interesting about this development is that even for an ultra-exclusive brand and service like Bugatti, a move into electric is deemed as the best step forward by the brand, and its parent company Volkswagen Group.
According to Winkelmann, the average Bugatti clients “usually have a collection of about 30 cars in their household. They also have ships, houses, and private planes.” So, would a company whose brand is synonymous with billionaires and ultra-luxury be adversely affected by a relatively attainable electric model?
“At the end of the day, the difference of the price in a car is the brand,” Winkelmann said. “And this, I think, will stay the same—fortunately for us. I’m convinced about this.”
The electric car market continues to grow significantly. In 2017, global sales of electric vehicles (EVs) for the first time passed one million units, with 4.5 million units expected to be on the road by 2020 – representing five percent of the world’s light-vehicles on the road. Meanwhile, China dominates the EV global market – larger than Europe and the Unites States combined – and expanded by 74 percent from 2017 to 2018.
The challenge awaiting Bugatti is whether they can create an EV capable of representing the brand, or whether it can boast the necessary technology at this stage.
Bugatti would likely rely heavily on VW’s data and research, borrowing the Premium Platform Electric architecture also used by Audi, Bentley and Porsche. However, Bugatti – given their standing – would then be expected to elevate the hardware.
However, as commendable and ambitious as Winkelmann’s outlines are, he is expected to face a prolonged battled with the VW Group board to green light the project. Reports suggest it would then take – should Winkelmann gain approval – another four years until Bugatti roll an electric car out onto the showroom floor.
Could we then see the Bugatti EV at a future Geneva Motor Show? Should that day come, it certainly won’t be breaking any records like ‘La Voiture Noire’, but it would make a far greater statement on the direction in which the car industry is heading.
Written by: Jonathan Turner