VW Leadership Wanted New Bugatti To Be an EV, But Rimac Saved It

Bugatti CEO Mate Rimac explains how hybrid was a bad word in a new docuseries about the V16 Tourbillon.

Reports of the combustion engine’s death are greatly exaggerated. But who thought its savior would be a guy known for developing all-electric hypercars in Croatia? Okay, so, Bugatti CEO Mate Rimac isn’t out to save the combustion engine. If anything, he’s focused on saving the Bugatti brand from being something that it isn’t: a commodity.

Under his helm, the Bugatti Tourbillon was unveiled this week and, to no one’s surprise, pushes beyond the limits of what we’d expect the Chiron successor to be. The Tourbillion produces an eye-watering 1,800 horsepower via its pairing of an all-new l, naturally aspirated V16 engine and a hybrid package consisting of three motors and a 25-kWh battery pack. Sure, it’s a hybrid, but it’s a hybrid hypercar. Fuel economy isn’t really its thing. Fun, fast, and fierce are more of its calling cards.

But people speculated that the next Bugatti would be electric. In a new Bugatti-produced docuseries, Rimac admits as much. As a true motorhead, however, he knew that wasn’t the route the brand was to go. At least not yet. In the series’ first installment, he says going EV would’ve been easy—just “take the Rimac Nevera and make a Bugatti out of it.” Kinda also sounds a lot like cheating, anyway. And who cheats off of their own work?

“But Bugatti is not about making the easy thing, it’s not about the easy way,” Rimac clarifies. “It’s about the hard way and doing the right things. I felt like the right thing was to have a combustion engine. [And] it should be as emotional as possible, and that for me means naturally aspirated.”

[insert standing ovation here]

Like a kid at the school science fair, Rimac presented his idea of a high-powered hybrid powertrain using a model car. Must’ve been a solid report because then-VW CEO Herbert Diess was all for it. Nevertheless, Rimac faced a surprising amount of doubters even after having convinced the boss.

“[Diess] loved it, but there were also many naysayers saying the next car has to be electric, or you don’t have the experience to develop a hybrid car,” said Rimac. “Or, how are you going to develop a combustion engine car? You have never done this before.”

While there is some truth to those statements, Rimac’s response was as self-deprecating as it was confident. “My answer was, I haven’t done anything before! Whatever I have done in the last 15 years, we had no right to do any of that, especially in a country that didn’t have a car industry.”

Rimac shows know-how and determination in following through with founder Ettore Bugatti’s philosophy that “if it’s comparable, it is no longer Bugatti.” An EV will eventually come, especially if the ultra-wealthy clientele ask for it, but regardless of when and where, it looks like Bugatti picked the right captain to steer its ship.