After months of assembling and testing inside Bugatti’s Atelier in Molsheim, France, the first production Bugatti Chiron super sports cars are on their way to three owners in Europe and the Middle East, the company announced this week.
I visited the Atelier last year and spoke to Christophe Pichon, general manager of the Molsheim facility and Bugatti board member for production and logistics, about what it takes to build a single $2.6 million Bugatti Chiron.
It takes five months to build the Chiron, from the first parts order to rolling the completed car out the door. The car spends three weeks in the paint shop, then it’s an entire week just to assemble the chassis — though these can happen simultaneously as they involve different parts of the car. Wheel alignment alone takes one to two days, which is important in a car is capable of more than 260 mph. Body assembly? That’s another week.
Each vehicle is extensively tested. The 16-cylinder, 1,500-horsepower engine is tested outside the car for eight hours. After the engine is installed in the car, the whole thing is tested to 124 mph on a rolling road inside the factory — a new piece of equipment installed especially for the Chiron because the old one, designed for the 1,200-horsepower Veyron, couldn’t handle the increase in power and torque.
Before they leave the factory, each car is outfitted with used wheels (so there’s no chance of damage before delivery) and go on a 200-mile test drive, first on French mountain roads to work the brakes and ensure the suspension is working, and then to the airport in Colmar, France where a Bugatti test driver takes each car over 186 mph on the taxiway — during pauses in airplane traffic, naturally.
After a more leisurely drive back from the airport, the customer’s brand-new wheels and tires installed and it’s driven for another 30 miles to make sure everything is mechanically perfect. But it’s still not ready for delivery just yet.
During testing, the vehicle has lots of protective elements installed to keep the body panels and interior from being damaged. After the protection is removed, the car goes to the paint lab inside the Atelier where a technician spends two days polishing the entire car. Then each car receives a six-hour product audit, where a single technician examines every square inch of the car for scratches or damage.
Every imperfection is marked and repaired, and, before the car heads out the door, every manager — quality, production, sales, after sales, the general manager of the Atelier — examines the car in the light tunnel before giving final sign off for delivery.
And then the whole process is repeated once or twice per week. With the company expecting to produce around 70 Chiron cars per year, the full run of 500 vehicles should be completed by 2024.