The Volkswagen Group could be making moves to offload niche exotic brands to prioritise electric vehicles.

    The change in priorities means boutique brand Bugatti could be sold to Rimac in exchange for a greater share in the Croatian EV start-up.

    Car Magazine reports Volkswagen executives have already approved the deal, but it’s yet to be signed off by the supervisory board.

    Should it go through, it’ll be sold via Porsche who owns a 15.5 per cent stake in Rimac, one of the largest stakes of any current investor.

    Bugatti hasn’t commented on the rumours but has pointed out the company has been profitable for the past two years and is expected to beat its sales tally from last year – no small order considering we’re in a pandemic.

    The Molsheim brand mightn’t be the only brand to change hands, either.

    Car reports the Volkswagen Group could also be looking at off-loading some of late chairman Ferdinand Piech’s most prized acquisitions: Lamborghini and Bentley, plus Italdesign and Ducati. It’s unlikely to happen soon, however, as talks with banks and hedge funds have ground to a halt due to COVID-19.

    Rimac, founded in 2009 by Mate Rimac, produced the Concept One electric hypercar while deliveries of its successor, the 1408kW C_Two (above), are set to begin next year. However, it’s best known for its technical expertise and battery technology.

    Other investors in Rimac include Hyundai, Koenigsegg and Jaguar.

    Mate Rimac holds a 51 per cent majority interest in his company, which has yet to be publicly traded. The most recent funding round last year pegged Rimac’s value at around €570 million (A$923 million).

    Sixteen-cylinder hypercars mightn’t be as “essential” to an automaker as robust electric vehicle technology but the acquisition of the storied Bugatti brand would be a feather in Rimac’s cap.

    Bugatti was first founded in 1909, though it staggered out of existence by the early 1950s after Ettore Bugatti lost control of his Molsheim, Alsace factory to the Germans in World War II and then lost the factory entirely in bombing runs. He died of a stroke in 1947 and the company never recovered, though many of its vehicles continued to appreciate significantly in value.

    The dormant brand was acquired in 1987 and under Italian entrepreneur Romano Artioli developed the EB110. Bugatti once again stopped making vehicles and was liquidated, with current owner Volkswagen acquiring the brand in 1998 and developing the Veyron and its Chiron successor.

    The Volkswagen Group isn’t just looking at shuffling its deck of exotic brands. Also on the agenda is the potential of merging Seat with the fledgling Cupra division. Volkswagen would then make Cupra the “lead marque” of the pair.

    How that would look is unclear but it’s not without precedent – over at General Motors, Pontiac started as a companion marque to the older Oakland brand in 1926. Just five years later Oakland was gone while Pontiac lived all the way until 2009.

    William Stopford

    William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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