It's a match made in heaven — at least, if you're excited about the prospect of ever-faster, ever-quicker hypercars surviving and thriving well into the 21st Century. On Monday, up-and-coming Croatian automaker Rimac Automobili announced they're merging with none other than Bugatti — and effectively taking control of one of the most iconic brands in the automotive realm.
This means that Rimac founder Mate Rimac, the 33-year-old electric vehicle engineer who started out in the automotive world by swapping an electric motor into his E30 BMW track car, has now been handed the reins of the prestigious company that builds the world's fastest, most expensive cars. Granted, he's not gaining absolute control. The structure of the deal is a little complex, but in a nutshell: The company formerly known as Rimac Automobili has become the Rimac Group, which consists of two subsidiaries, Rimac Technologies (which will keep on developing electric vehicle tech for other companies) and Bugatti Rimac, which in turn will produce vehicles under the Rimac and Bugatti brands.
Bugatti Rimac, however, is only 55 percent owned by the new Rimac Group. Porsche — Bugatti's recently-appointed patron within the VW Group — owns the other 45 percent. What makes things a little odd is the fact that Porsche also opens 24 percent of the Rimac Group, making it the second-largest shareholder behind Mate Rimac himself (and ahead of Hyundai, which has 12 percent of the company).
While both Bugatti and Rimac will stay in their current homes of Molsheim, France and Zagreb, Croatia respectively for now, come 2023, development and operations for both brands will be consolidated at the future Rimac Campus, a 1.07-million-square foot complex near Rimac's current HQ.
The move comes hot on the heels of the launch of Rimac's latest car, the Nevera, which has launched to critical acclaim for its appearance, technology...and the fact that it can crack off sub-10-second quarter-mile times as casually as you or I would walk to the kitchen for another cup of coffee.
Still, great as the Nevera is, don't expect Bugatti to do what Pininfarina did with the Battista and simply reskin the Croatian car. "That's absolutely not going to happen," Rimac told Autocar. "I'm a car guy, and while of course we want to make a profitable company, we will not just recycle what we have. We will not just restyle or hybridise the Chiron to make a new car. We're developing a completely new product from the ground up, because we think that's the best way to go, and that product will still have a combustion engine."
Porsche CEO Oliver Blume was equally direct about Bugatti's electrifying-but-not-electric immediate future. "We listened very closely to Bugatti's fanbase, and for the transition period, we have an idea with more electrification but still retaining a combustion engine," he said, according to Autocar. "We're thinking about electrification with a higher grade on Bugatti as well."
Still, while the combustion engine may not be getting phased out of Bugattis just yet, the move a dramatic show of confidence in Rimac and its vision of an electric future by Bugatti's former outright owner, the VW Group. VW has long since made clear its intentions to go all-in on electrification, with ambitions plans to sell millions of EVs in the near future and largely cease internal combustion vehicle production by the time today's toddlers are studying up for their learner's permits. Handing one of its crown jewels to one of the most innovative people in the electric vehicle world shows yet again just how serious they are about leaving the ICE age behind.