The Founding Story Of Bugatti & Who Owns It Currently?

Founding Story of Bugatti

For the last two centuries, the Bugatti has maintained its status as the “luxurious race car.” Experts say that Bugatti not only produces the fastest vehicles but also claims to be one of the best-looking hypercars in the world! By the way, did you know that there is a legendary tale behind the inception and journey of Bugatti?

Founding Story of Bugatti

If not, then stick to this article because we will dive deep into the founding story of Bugatti along with its current owners!

(A) Bugatti: Profile Overview

Bugatti is a renowned luxury automobile manufacturer known for its high-performance, exclusive supercars. Founded in 1909 by Ettore Bugatti, the brand has a rich heritage of engineering excellence and innovative design. 

Before diving further into the history of Bugatti, let’s have a look at its profile-

Official NameAutomobiles Ettore Bugatti
Operating IndustryAutomotive
FounderEttore Bugatti
FateSold to Hispano-Suiza (1963)
HeadquartersMolsheim, Alsace, France
W Motors,
Caterham Cars
Bugatti: Profile Overview

Currently, Bugatti is famous for its Chiron era, a mid-engined, two-seater sports car. In February 2024, Bugatti announced the upcoming successor of Bhiron which will use a V16 hybrid-electric powertrain.

(B) Synopsis of Bugatti’s History

Bugatti's History

You see, there’s a captivating tale behind Automobiles Ettore Bugatti, a maker of exceptional cars. Not only it ignited the passion for hypercars on the roads but also emerged as one of the luxurious car brands. 

It all began in 1909, in the then-German city of Molsheim, Alsace. But the current geographic location is France! A visionary named Ettore Bugatti was behind the birth of Bugatti He was originally from Italy and renowned for both breathtaking design and triumphant race car manufacturers. 

But alas, tragedy struck. Ettore Bugatti’s demise in 1947 left a void, worsened by his son Jean’s passing in 1939. With just around 8,000 cars to its name, the company faced financial turmoil. Yet, amidst the darkness, a flicker of hope emerged.

In 1987, an Italian entrepreneur breathed new life into the brand, resurrecting it as Bugatti Automobili S.p.A. Smooth sailing ensued until 1995 when a pivotal moment arrived- Volkswagen Group’s acquisition in 1998… And thus, began the eras of Pre-Veyron, Veyron, and Chiron, each marking a chapter in Bugatti’s riveting saga. 

Stay tuned for the thrilling details ahead!

(C) Bugatti’s Ownership Saga

Bugatti went through multiple ownerships under various visionary leadership. Let’s go through them one by one-

(C.1) Ettore Bugatti

Ettore Bugatti

Ettore Bugatti, born on September 15, 1881, in Milan, Italy, was the visionary behind the iconic Bugatti brand. Inspired by his family’s background in design and engineering, he began crafting automobile prototypes in his late teens. In 1909, he founded Bugatti, marking the start of an era of automotive excellence.

Under his leadership, Bugatti produced several exclusive cars such as-

  • Type 35 Grand Prix
  • Type 41 Royale
  • Type 58 “Atlantic”
  • Type 55 sports car

Sadly, Bugatti passed away in August 1947 in France, leaving behind a legacy of innovation and timeless design.

(C.2) Jean Bugatti

Jean Bugatti

Jean Bugatti, eldest son of Ettore Bugatti, was born in Cologne on January 15, 1909, coinciding with the founding year of Bugatti. After his birth, the family relocated to Molsheim, where Jean naturally became involved in the company. From 1926 to 1939, he played a pivotal role as a test engineer and designer, collaborating with his father on remarkable car designs that propelled Bugatti forward. Tragically, Jean Bugatti’s life was cut short in August 1939, during a test drive of one of the company’s prototypes, leaving behind a legacy of innovation and contribution to the brand’s growth.

(C.3) Stephan Winkelmann

Stephan Winkelmann

Stephan Winkelmann took the reins as CEO of Bugatti from 2018 to 2021 while the company was still under the Volkswagen Group. Born in 1964, Winklemann holds a degree in Political Science. 

He kicked off his career selling cars for Mercedes Benz and gradually climbed the ladder in the auto industry, landing higher roles at various car companies. With his extensive experience, he became President and CEO of Lamborghini in 2005, a position he held for 11 years until he transitioned to CEO of Audi in 2016.

 Remarkably, Winklemann returned to lead Lamborghini as Chairman and CEO once again in 2020.

(C.4) Mate Rimac

Mate Rimac

Mate Rimac, a young entrepreneur from Croatia, founded Rimac Automobili, an electric sports car company. His innovative skills attracted investments from big companies like Porsche, Camel Group, and Hyundai. Recently, he joined forces with Porsche to create Bugatti Rimac, a joint venture. Mate Rimac now serves as the CEO of this new company.

(D) World War 1 and the Resilience of Bugatti

You see, during the war, Ettore Bugatti had to leave for Milan and later Paris. But as soon as the war ended, he hurried back to his factory in Molsheim. Just four months after Alsace became part of France, thanks to the Versailles Treaty, Bugatti managed to secure a spot at the 15th Paris Motor Show in October 1919. 

There, he showcased three light cars, all resembling their pre-war counterparts. Each car boasted the same advanced overhead camshaft 4-cylinder 1,368cc engine with four valves per cylinder. Among them was the petite “Type 13,” featuring a racing body crafted by Bugatti themselves, with a 2,000 mm (78.7 in) wheelbase.

The other two were the “Type 22” and “Type 23,” sporting wheelbases of 2,250 mm (88.6 in) and 2,400 mm (94.5 in) respectively.

(E) Racing Triumphs & Iconic Models 

Iconic models of Bugatti

Bugatti wasn’t just about making cars, they were winners on the racing track too! Here’s how-

(E.1) Early Grand Prix Victories

Back in 1929, a Bugatti car won big at the Monaco Grand Prix, their first-ever victory in this big race. And then, driver Jean-Pierre Wimille drove a Bugatti to victory not once, but twice, at the famous 24 hours of Le Mans race, in 1937 and 1939.

Iconic Models

Here are some iconic models of Bugatti that won the races as well as the hearts of people-

  • Bugatti Type 10
  • Bugatti Type 35

Developed with racing driver Jean Chassagne, this car made a big splash at the Lyon Grand Prix in 1924. And let’s not forget about the Targa Florio, where Bugattis won five years in a row from 1925 to 1929.

Louis Chiron, a racing hero, had many wins in Bugatti cars. He was so respected that Bugatti named a concept car after him – the 1999 Bugatti 18/3 Chiron.

But the biggest racing win for Bugatti? It was the 1939 Le Mans victory, with Jean-Pierre Wimille and Pierre Veyron winning with just one car and limited resources.

(E.2) Airplane Racing

Bugatti Airplane Racing

Bugatti wasn’t just about cars; they also wanted to rule the skies. In the 1930s, Ettore Bugatti tried his hand at airplane racing, aiming to beat the Germans in the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize. Their creation, the Bugatti 100P, designed by Belgian engineer Louis de Monge, never flew, but it showed Bugatti’s spirit of innovation.

(E.3) Railcar

But cars and planes weren’t enough for Bugatti. Ettore Bugatti also made a motorized railcar, the Autorail Bugatti, showing that they could excel on the tracks too.

(F) Challenges Faced

Challenges faced by Bugatti

Buggati’s business was sailing smoothly until World War 1 occurred. After that, it faced numerous challenges viz.-

  • Post World War 1: Bugatti faced a big challenge after World War 1. In 1936, there was a labor strike. Ettore Bugatti, who always looked after his workers well, felt hurt by this strike. Though the issue was resolved, Ettore started to distance himself from the workers and the Molsheim factory.
  • Loss of Jean Bugatti: In 1939, tragedy struck again. Jean Bugatti, a crucial figure in the company, died in a test drive accident. His death shocked the entire company. With no one to lead after Ettore, things became even more difficult. To add to the sorrow, World War 2 began shortly after, forcing Bugatti to be sold to a German entrepreneur by the government. After these events, Bugatti was never the same.
  • Financial Struggles: Even after the war, when Ettore Bugatti regained control of the company, he faced financial problems. This made his health worsen, and he passed away in August 1947.
  • Production Halt: After Ettore, the appointed Managing Director took charge but couldn’t manage the company well. This led to Bugatti stopping production in 1956.
  • Acquisition by Spanish Automakers & Volkswagen: Later, a Spanish automaker took over Bugatti. However, in 1995, Bugatti had to stop operating due to undisclosed reasons. Eventually, Volkswagen acquired Bugatti in 1998.

(G) Change in Leadership: Merger & Demergers

Bugatti mergers and demergers

After Ettore Bugatti passed away in 1947, changes occurred in Bugatti’s leadership-

  • 1948: Pierre Marco was appointed as the Managing Director by Ettore’s heirs. But within three years, Roland Bugatti, another son of Ettore, took over management.
  • 1963: A Spanish automobile manufacturer, Hispano-Suiza, bought Bugatti. The company was then renamed Messier-Bugatti and continued making cars.
  • 1987: Romano Artioli, a car dealer and entrepreneur, obtained the rights to the Bugatti trademark. He operated the company as ‘Bugatti Automobili S.p.A.’ 
  • 1995: Operations ceased and the rights for the sports car EB 110 were acquired by Dauer Racing GmbH.
  • 1998: Volkswagen purchased Bugatti. Under Volkswagen’s ownership, Bugatti launched successful models like the Veyron, Chiron, and Divo.
  • 2021: Bugatti parted ways with Volkswagen to join forces with Rimac Automobili and Porsche, forming ‘Bugatti Rimac.’ Rimac holds 55% of the shares, while Porsche owns the rest. All future operations are expected to be under this new management.

(H) Revival and Resurgence of Bugatti

In the mid-1950s, Bugatti tried to make a comeback under Roland Bugatti. They created the Type 251 race car with the help of Gioacchino Colombo. Sadly, the car didn’t live up to expectations, and Bugatti had to stop making cars.

During the 1960s, Virgil Exner designed a Bugatti as part of his “Revival Cars” project. Ghia built a show version of this car for the 1965 Turin Motor Show, using the last Bugatti Type 101 chassis. But they couldn’t get enough money to continue, so Exner moved on to revive Stutz.

Bugatti kept making airplane parts and was sold to Hispano-Suiza in 1963, which was also a former car maker turned airplane supplier. Snecma took over Hispano-Suiza in 1968. Then, in 1977, after acquiring Messier, Snecma merged Messier and Bugatti into Messier-Bugatti.

Now, let’s look at the modern revivals of Bugatti-

(H.1) Bugatti Automobili S.p.A. (1987-1995)

Bugatti Automobili S.p.A. (1987-1995)

The following points describe this event in detail-

Factory Setup and Early Development
  • In 1987, Romano Artioli acquired the Bugatti brand and established Bugatti Automobili S.p.A.
  • Architect Giampaolo Benedini designed the factory in Campogalliano, Modena, Italy, with construction starting in 1988 and completion in 1990.
  • Plans for the Bugatti revival were presented in 1989 by Paolo Stanzani and Marcello Gandini, renowned designers of Lamborghini cars.
The Debut: Bugatti EB119GT (1991-1995)
  • The Bugatti EB110 GT, unveiled as the company’s first production vehicle, featured a potent 3.5-liter quad-turbocharged V12 engine, six-speed gearbox, and four-wheel drive.
  • Initially, an aluminum honeycomb chassis was proposed but later replaced with a carbon fiber one by Nicola Materazzi.
  • Racing car designer Mauro Forghieri served as Bugatti’s technical director from 1993 to 1994.
  • Bugatti introduced a prototype large saloon called the EB112 in 1993.
Notable Owners and Economic Challenges
  • Formula One legend Michael Schumacher was among the notable owners of the Bugatti EB110.
  • Economic downturns in North America and Europe led to financial struggles for Bugatti, culminating in the cessation of operations in September 1995.
  • Development of a US-specific model, the “Bugatti America,” was underway but never realized.
Aftermath and Legacy
  • Bugatti’s liquidators sold Lotus Cars to Proton of Malaysia.
  • German firm Dauer Racing acquired the EB110 license and remaining parts stock in 1997, producing refined versions called the EB110 SS.
  • The Campogalliano factory, sold to a furniture-making company, remained unoccupied.
  • Following Dauer Racing’s cessation of production in 2011, Toscana-Motors GmbH of Germany acquired the remaining parts stock.
  • Former Bugatti executives and employees established B Engineering, creating the Edonis using the chassis and engine from the Bugatti EB110 SS, with modifications.

(H.2) Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S. (1998–present)

Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S. (1998–present)
Pre-Veyron Era
  •  In 1998, Volkswagen Group acquired Bugatti.
  • Bugatti introduced its first concept vehicle, the EB118, at the 1998 Paris Auto Show, designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro of ItalDesign.
  • The EB118 featured a powerful W-18 engine and was showcased at multiple auto shows in 1999.
  • Bugatti unveiled two more concepts, the EB 218 and the 18/3 Chiron, in 1999 at the Geneva and Frankfurt Motor Shows.
The Veyron Era (2005-2015)
  • Bugatti commenced production of its first regular production vehicle, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4, in September 2005.
  • The Veyron boasted a 1001 PS 8-liter W-16 engine with four turbochargers.
  • The Veyron era concluded in February 2015 with the sale of the last model, named La Finale.
The Chiron Era (2016- Present)
  • Bugatti introduced the successor to the Veyron, the Bugatti Chiron, at the Geneva Motor Show on March 1, 2016.
  • Designed by Achim Anscheidt, the Chiron is a mid-engined, two-seated sports car continuing the legacy of its predecessor.
  • In February 2024, Bugatti announced the successor to the Chiron, set to feature a V16 hybrid-electric powertrain, signaling a new chapter in Bugatti’s history.

(I) Who Owns Bugatti?

Who owns Bugatti

As of now, Bugatti is owned by Volkswagen Group, a German multinational automotive corporation. Volkswagen Group acquired Bugatti in 1998, and it has been part of its automotive portfolio alongside other luxury brands such as Lamborghini, Bentley, and Audi.

In November 2021, Bugatti became part of Bugatti Rimac, a joint venture between Rimac Group and Porsche AG. Since then, the company has been led by Mate Rimac as the chief executive officer of Bugatti Rimac.

Note: Do you know who is doing best in the two-wheeler EV segment in India? If not then visit the article- “Which Automobile Company is leading the electric 2 wheeler race?

(J) Summing Up the Founding Story of Bugatti

The origin of Bugatti traces back to Ettore Bugatti’s vision for creating high-performance automobiles, leading to the establishment of Bugatti Automobiles. Over the years, Bugatti went through various ownership changes, including acquisitions by Volkswagen Group and Rimac Automobili. 

Currently, Bugatti is jointly owned by Rimac Automobili and Porsche, operating under the name “Bugatti Rimac.” 

With a rich history of innovation and excellence, Bugatti continues to push the boundaries of automotive engineering, promising exciting developments in the future under its new ownership!

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Published By: Supti Nandi
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Kusumita Banerjee
Kusumita Banerjee
2 months ago

Bugatti Veyron is Rs.11.39 crore whereas Lamborghini Aventador is priced at Rs.5.01 crore. There is a striking difference in price between the two, then, why Indians are crazy for Lamborghini and not for Bugatti????