The members of the Bugatti family were graced with a combination of artistic talent and engineering genius that was unique in their time.
The Bugatti Family.
The artistic streak first manifested itself with Giovanni Bugatti, an architect and sculptor. Around the turn of the 20th century, his son Carlo Bugatti earned international acclaim with his revolutionary furniture designs made of exotic materials. And then there were his two sons, Ettore and Rembrandt Bugatti, much alike – both showing a knack for design and engineering – but at the same time very different. Contrary to the expectations of Carlo Bugatti – who had envisioned his sons taking the respective career path that the other took – Ettore became the engineer and Rembrandt the sculptor, this latter's work fetching high prices even today.
Ettore was certainly the most famous member of the Bugatti clan. Design, craftsmanship, and high aesthetic standards were the defining elements of his work, and the automotive scene still stands in awe of this legendary engineer. Ettore’s son Jean, who died much too young, could have carried on the family tradition at the crossroads of art and engineering; yet since this was not to be, his younger brother Roland took over the family business after the Second World War. Bugatti was unable to keep pace with industry developments and ceased to be a major player in the automobile world. But unlike legions of former competitors, Bugatti is a brand that will not be forgotten – the legend and influence of Ettore Bugatti live on.
In 1998, Volkswagen AG acquired the Bugatti brand.
It was soon decided that the next generation of the legendary cars could only be produced at Molsheim in Alsace, which had been home to the Bugatti brand from the very beginning. Yet the Bugatti story comprises only a part of Molsheim’s impressive heritage. For many years during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation the bishops or the archdiocese of Strasbourg resided in the small Alsatian town. And it was once home to a famous Jesuit university, which later relocated to the larger neighboring town.
Today’s manufacturing plant covers only a small part of the original area, where up to 1200 workers used to assemble the classic Bugatti models. The administration offices are housed in the renovated Château Saint Jean, and the Veyron 16.4 is assembled in the newly built, oval studio. A simple storage building and the two reconstructed coach houses complete the facility. The orangery and the old factory gate remain unaltered, original witnesses to the era of Ettore Bugatti.
It was here in Molsheim that the Italian automobile pioneer founded his legendary Bugatti car manufacturing plant. It was here that he celebrated the racing victories of his cars and evolved from a respected businessman to a living legend. And it was here that the story of one of the world’s greatest automobile brands came to an end – or rather, a temporary halt. For the tradition of ingenious engineering coupled with high aesthetic standards that began with Ettore Bugatti has now resumed with the start of production in 2005.
In 1998, Volkswagen AG decided to revive the legendary Bugatti automobile brand, purchasing all trademark rights, and the next year Bugatti Automobile S.A.S. was founded in Molsheim, Alsace, as a Volkswagen France subsidiary.
As early as 1998, Volkswagen presented its first Bugatti prototype at the Paris Auto Salon – the Bugatti EB 118, a two-door coupé with 555 HP designed by Italdesign. It was followed by another Italdesign product, the Bugatti EB 218, a four-door limousine which was presented at the Geneva Auto Salon in 1999. At the International Automobile Exhibition in Frankfurt in the fall of that year, Volkswagen introduced the Bugatti 18.3 Chiron, named after the greatest Bugatti racecar driver of the interwar era. The Bugatti Veyron Concept Car was first shown at the Tokyo Motor Show. Both the Chiron and the Veyron were developed by the Volkswagen AG design team led by Hartmut Warkuss.
In 2001, Volkswagen decided to start serial production of the super-sportscar Veyron, whose official name was “Veyron 16.4”. In the fall of 2004, after renovation of the traditional Bugatti headquarters at Château Saint Jean was completed and the new assembly studio constructed, Bugatti S.A.S. began manufacturing the first Veyron. About 80 cars are assembled each year, most of them being picked up directly in Molsheim by their new owners. This is a pleasure that customers back in Ettore Bugatti’s days also used to indulge in.
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