Bright and clinically pure. Three Chiron1 hyper sport cars float in the air like clouds. Bugatti´s Atelier in Molsheim rather equals an operating room than an automobile production facility. There is neither a smell of oil or fuel nor rattling robots or buzzing conveyor bands. But low-volume music playing in the background.
Here, in Alsace, the French hyper sport cars of Bugatti, like the Chiron1 and now the first Chiron Sport “110 ans Bugatti”1, the limited special edition model for the 110-year anniversary of the French luxury brand, arise from manual work lasting for weeks. Without any hectic rush but therefore with great diligence. Every vehicle becomes a unique masterpiece, reflecting Bugatti´s brand values art, form and technique.
„Quality and craftsmanship are two strands of Bugatti´s DNA. As it was 110 years ago, we pay close attention to the selection of material and to the quality“, says Stephan Winkelmann, President of Bugatti. „Company founder Ettore Bugatti said that a technical product is only perfect when its perfect from the aesthetic point of view. This also includes the workmanship.“ Therefore the quality control has a high significance. In 2018 Bugatti produced 76 Chiron1, this year it will be over 80 vehicles, in addition the first ones of the Bugatti Divo2. Therefore the French manufacturer will continue to invest in the future and hires 20 new employees in the departments production and logistics.
Up to eight paint layers
So it takes three weeks to apply the individual paint coatings on the bodywork. For visible carbon fiber, for which Bugatti is market leader in manufacturing quality, there are six layers, while there are up to eight layers for top coat. Between every step the work is controlled precisely, every coat is applied, grinded and polished by hand. The exterior components are pre-assembled only a few hundred meters away in the technical center on the factory premises and subjected to a first quality control.
The Atelier, where the hyper sport cars arise, is located in Molsheim just next to the Chateau, which was finished restoring in 2001. The ground plan has the form of an oval, in the style of the brand logo of the French manufacturer, the so-called Bugatti-Macaron. In the over 1.000 square meter big Atelier the floor shines in a reflecting white. It is composed of epoxy, which is insulated and provides static charging. Especially trained employees check every single component. Only after a successful quality check the vehicle components are used in the hyper sport cars. For this purpose five boxes are available. There are no conveyor bands or robots. One after the other the employees prepare the assembly of the powertrain, which was already tested for eight hours on the dynamometer. After that the aggregate is composed with the rear vehicle and then married with the chassis. 14 titanium screws ensure a permanent and durable connection.
The approximately 20 employees tighten and control the screws on minimum 3.800 screwing points and assemble over 1.800 components to a whole. Machines merely assist with installing or complying precise values, like the prescribed tightening torque for screws. The most powerful, fastest and most luxurious hyper sport car is produced exclusively by hand. This costs time: It takes up to six months until a Bugatti hyper sport car will hit the road. Only the finest materials are used, limitless individualization possibilities for material an colors make every model a one-off. „Bugatti cars are a total artwork, solitaires in the automobile manufacture“, underlines Stephan Winkelmann. For this purpose the hyper sport car has to go through stringent acceptance tests and quality controls before it is handed over to the customer.
Since 2013 Christophe Piochon is Manager of Production and Logistics at Bugatti and Manager of the location Molsheim. The 42-year-old works for Bugatti since 2002, with short interruptions, and knows every stone in Molsheim. The Frenchman accompanied the Veyron (2005-2016) and the Chiron1 since 2016. On his daily walk through the Atelier he even pays attention to details, picks up a lint in the entrance area of his stairs and keeps it until he can get rid of it in a bin.
Bugatti hyper sport cars are not comparable
„Bugatti hyper sport cars are not comparable to any other automobile, not in power, speed, materials and quality. It already starts with the choice of materials and the assembly here in the Atelier“, says Christophe Piochon. „The way we produce our models by creating an individual hand-made product in this special atmosphere, makes us unique. This is ,Haute Couture de l´Automobile´“, he says.
After the filling with all motor and cooling fluids every vehicle is checked over and over again. First all the hyper sport cars have to drive on the dynamometer for two hours with their 1.500-HP-16-cylinder-motor, including simulations up to 200 km/h and full-load-stages. When the hyper sport car passes all tests successfully, it receives his outer shell. By the time everything sits perfectly approximately four days pass by. After the following watering tests the interior is fully equipped. As late as the vehicle is completely finished, the employees paste it with a transparent foil. This protects the chassis from stone impacts when the driving tests start on the road.
Triple functional test by a test driver
Before a finished vehicle is handed to customers, professional test drivers check every function on minimum 350 kilometers and eight hours on highways and test tracks. „The quality has an impact everywhere, is visible on the unique surface quality like the fit and the finish of the carbon, but also on the acoustics. On a Bugatti there must not display any noises”, says Christophe Piochon. Therefore four skilled test drivers with specially calibrated ears drive over highways for hours. „They recognize every dissonance immediately and let it turn off“, he says. But therefore other wheels and another underbody are mounted. Only when everything is in place and the Bugatti runs almost perfect, the original wheels and the fitting underbody are assembled and the Bugatti has to do its third functional test.
The coating-Finish is done by true coating artists. They remove the foil and edit the surface carefully. After that four employees inspect the surfaces with fine cotton gloves in another over six hours lasting test for perfect processing. Finally board member of Bugatti, Christophe Piochon, examines every vehicle ready for delivery for approximately one hour under a daylight light beam. „Although this is a great effort we owe it to our customers. Only perfect cars leave the Atelier. Our aspiration: to approximate the closest level possible to perfection”, says Stephan Winkelmann. That is a challenge. For every single car. Every day. But also a special motivation.
1 Fuel consumption, l/100km: urban 35.2 / extra urban 15.2 / combined 22.5; CO2 emissions (combined), g/km: 516; efficiency class: G
2 This model is not subject to Directive 1999/94/EC, as type approval has not yet been granted.