Croatia-based Rimac is finalizing a deal to purchase Bugatti from the Volkswagen Group, according to an unverified report. If the rumor is accurate, the sale would propel Rimac to the top of the automotive industry, guarantee that Bugatti's future is electric, and mark the beginning of Volkswagen's efforts to divest its empire.
Executives in Wolfsburg gave the deal the green light in September 2020, according to anonymous sources who spoke to British magazine Car, but the company's supervisory board hasn't approved it yet. Selling the French company isn't as simple as sending company founder Mate Rimac an email with an account number. Insiders explained Volkswagen would likely trade Bugatti and all of its assets for a significant stake in Rimac that would be transferred directly to Porsche, which already owns 15.5% of the brand. Officials hope to increase that figure to about 49%, meaning Bugatti is theoretically worth about 33.5% of Rimac, which was founded in 2009.
Bugatti told Autoblog it can't comment on speculation. Mate Rimac gave us a similar answer.
Rumors of a Bugatti sale have hovered around the automotive industry for several years, and they've never materialized. In theory, spinning off the brand would be relatively easy because it's not as deeply integrated into the Volkswagen Group as its sister companies. It doesn't share its W16 engine with another carmaker, for example. And yet, Car speculates Lamborghini, SEAT, ItalDesign, Bentley, and Ducati will also be sold in the coming years, leaving Volkswagen with its namesake division, Škoda, Audi, Porsche, Scania, and MAN.
Volkswagen is having an estate sale to fund the development of electric, autonomous, and digital technologies. Its downsizing will send ripples through the auto industry. Porsche could move upmarket if it doesn't have to worry about stepping on Lamborghini's toes, for example. Spinoffs are always risky, so some companies may not survive if they're not bolstered by economies of scale. As of writing, there's no word on who will pick up the brands being divested under this scenario. And, keep in mind none of this is official. Volkswagen hasn't commented on the report.
Even if the report ends up falling wide of the mark, the very idea that Volkswagen would be open to selling some of its most prestigious divisions to the highest bidder is a startling reminder of the changes sweeping across the industry, and the cost burden they carry. Shrinking was unfathomable a decade ago, when electrification was little more than a loony buzzword for techies and executives regularly made nod-and-wink offers to buy Alfa Romeo from Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). They were flatly rejected by former CEO Sergio Marchionne.