Mate Rimac dishes on Bugatti engines and a canceled Bugatti EV CUV

Bugatti Rimac CEO Mate Rimac gave Auto Express a look behind the scenes of his short time as head of the combined hypercar companies, as well as a peep into the CEO’s crystal ball. The interview deserves a read because Rimac is the latest, closest thing we have to “garage car guy catapults himself into industry bigwig” — the hugely successful corporate antipode to Christian von Koenigsegg’s hugely successful indie label. In 2007, at 19 years old, Rimac began converting his BMW 3 Series to an electric powertrain. Four years later, he showed the Rimac Concept One at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Ten years after that, he took the lead at Bugatti. He told Auto Express that as soon as he agreed with VW to lead the Molsheim luxury brand, which was two years before being installed as CEO, he and his team began working on a new internal combustion engine for a future Bugatti.

Rimac said he’d already been working on a Bugatti project, ex-CEO Stephan Winkelmann having sought assistance on “an electric CUV similar to what the Ferrari Purosange turned out to be.” We’re told the idea was to rework the Rimac Nevera powertrain for the purpose. Once Rimac knew he was going to take over the joint venture company, the crossover was dead. Rimac said, “I knew exactly what I wanted the next car [after the Chiron] to be, and we started developing a combustion engine on our own.” We will get a concept view of that powerplant next year, described as a “totally bonkers” hybrid in a car that doesn’t share any parts with an existing Bugatti or Rimac. We’ll probably be waiting until the last Chirons and Mistrals are produced before it hits the road, though.   

As for the canceled Bugatti crossover, Rimac says that’s not coming back. We’ve heard that from every supercar and hypercar maker that now has or will soon have an SUV, haven’t we? Here’s where we reach the gray area: Rimac isn’t opposed to a four-seater car, he’s opposed to an SUV. Regarding a car, he told AE, “I will never say we’ll never do this sort of thing,” but he hasn’t found a “technical concept” that combines the proportions needed to make four people comfortable with what he expects from a hypercar. The SUV, on the other hand, received an unequivocal, “No. … It was something we immediately stopped for Bugatti, and we will go in a slightly different direction. That is a direction we will never take.” Keep an eye on that line in the sand.

To ensure differentiation between the two brands, the chief said Bugatti will lean “in the direction of beautiful art” and analogue instruments while doing 400 kilometers per hour on the Autobahn powered by ICEs for “the foreseeable future.” Rimac will work on “bending physics” and be high-tech, autonomous-enabled, “absolutely insane, bonkers, full-electric.”

He also talks about the 180-million-euro “learning experience” of developing the Nevera, the Koenigsegg’s simulated manual shifter, solid state batteries, hydrogen, and more. Head to Auto Express for a read.  

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