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 Post subject: In the Atelier of perfection
PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2015 1:36 pm 
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Joined: Mon May 15, 2006 5:30 pm
Posts: 1650
Location: Molsheim - France
In the Atelier of perfection

Every Bugatti not only has a fascinating Spirit but also an astonishingly beautiful home. A visit to the company's headquarters shows why Bugatti is one of the world's most coveted brands.
In Molsheim, a small town in Alsace on the edge of the Vosges, it is a cool, sunny morning. There is a little dew on the deep green lawn that is so perfectly tended that it would be excellent for golfing. Around the lawns, an old wood with tall trees exudes calm. If you take a closer look, you can see fallow deer grazing peacefully near to parked cars. Suddenly, the morning idyll is disturbed by a deep growling sound. The fallow deer prick up their ears but there is no danger for them. An icon of the automobile world, the Bugatti Veyron, has just started its engine in front of the château where the company has its headquarters.

The contrast is probably unique in the field of automobile production. Deer graze in the park landscape around the château, while the engine of the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse is roaring only a few meters away. This is the world's most powerful production vehicle, with 1200 HP, and also the world's fastest production roadster. It only takes 2.6 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h. The low-slung car with its striking bright yellow bonnet is now rolling slowly over to the light grey production building, the Bugatti "Atelier".

This is where the Bugatti Veyron has been made since 2005. The Atelier has a bright, shining floor and people work in silent concentration. The Bugatti production facility has nothing to do with the loud factory halls normally used by automakers. It is a special honor to work here: the assembly workers proudly wear a blue jacket with the Bugatti emblem. Only one Bugatti per week leaves the factory at Molsheim and it is entirely handcrafted. "No two Bugattis are the same. Individuality is very important for our customers," says Christophe Piochon, pointing to the model wall in the corridor of the Atelier. This wall displays scale 1:18 models of most of the Veyrons produced to date, showing the precise configuration of vehicles delivered to customers.

All of the Bugatti Veyrons (the series is limited to 450) will be produced here. The 300 Coupe models, the Veyron 16.4 with 1001 HP and the Veyron 16.4 Super Sport with 1200 HP are already sold out as is the six-part series "Les Légendes de Bugatti", with each part limited to 3 vehicles. This series produced by the French luxury brand honors great names that played a key role in the history of Bugatti and were instrumental in building the legend of the brand. The 150 roadster versions of the Veyron have also almost all been sold. Only a few Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse models are still available for ordering.

Piochon is not prepared to reveal any details about the new production model. The French national, who is Managing Director and Head of Production at Molsheim, says that preparations are well under way but everything is still "top secret". Piochon has worked for the Volkswagen Group for 17 years, including positions in Wolfsburg and Dresden. Now he is responsible for the 98 employees of Bugatti, only 25 of whom work in production, which is rather unusual for an automobile company. Most of the employees in Molsheim work in logistics and quality assurance or in the sales, customer support or after-sales teams.

"It accelerates impressively fast and yet remains in the first gears on a very low noise level."
First Bugatti driving report, The Motor, 1910.

Bugatti has a broad-based supplier network. There is scarcely a vehicle in the Volkswagen Group that is so European. The engines come from a small workshop at the VW engine plant in Salzgitter, the seats from Italy, the gearboxes from England and the tires from France. The body is painted a few kilometers away in Germany. Some components had to be developed especially for the Veyron because of its unprecedented output and performance figures. It takes about three months before all the parts needed for a vehicle have been produced and delivered. At the Atelier, a Bugatti is assembled in three assembly boxes, with five technicians working on each car. During the last four weeks before it is delivered, the car is prepared and polished in the light tunnel. Only absolutely immaculate cars are handed over to a customer. Of course, such dedication takes time: "Our delivery time is normally five months but it may take up to a year if a customer has very special wishes," Piochon explains. Whether a customer wants special paintwork or extravagant interior equipment – at Bugatti, it is the customer's wishes that count. For example one customer wanted to preserve his little son's footprint on the cover of the rear stowage compartment.

"We will realize any wish that a customer may have if it is at all possible," says Hendrik Malinowski, Head of Customer Support and Sales at Molsheim. His work starts with the initial customer contact and continues until a vehicle has been delivered or even longer. Although customers can buy a Bugatti from more than 30 dealers throughout the world, more than two-thirds of Bugatti customers come to Molsheim to obtain advice at least once. Malinowski and his team welcome potential buyers to Bugatti's historic headquarters to "give them something unforgettable, something that money cannot buy, the Molsheim experience." This is a journey both to the past and to the present.
Through the gateway of a 13th century abbey guarded by a statue of St John, visitors reach the reception area in the magnificent Château Saint Jean. Here they will find full details on the history of the brand with motorsport playing a prominent role. They can then enjoy a trip in a historic 1926 Bugatti. Of course, the tour also includes a visit to the Atelier. "We want to create a sense of the brand, an emotional tie between the brand and the customer," says Malinowski. Although there is no such thing as a typical Bugatti customer, these visitors do not simply want to buy a car. All are wealthy automobile connoisseurs looking for the crowning glory for their fleet. This is precisely what Bugatti has to offer: an exclusive automobile brand, strictly limited, highly individual, with very special service.
Pierre Fresse represents a key element in this special service. Fresse, a French national, is a highly specialized engineer who speaks fluent German and English in addition to his native language. Fresse is one of the Bugatti "Flying Doctors". Together with three colleagues, he is always at the service of customers. He is responsible for Great Britain, Russia and the Far East. In these regions, the 36-year-old knows almost every Bugatti and every Bugatti owner. If the customer has a question or request, he simply calls, whatever the time, all year round. Some customers simply send a photo with enthusiastic greetings from time to time while others may need an inspection. There are more than 30 service partners throughout the world but the Flying Doctor who is responsible is always there if more complex work is needed. Sometimes, the vehicle is shipped to the customer workshop in Molsheim or the Technical Service Centre at Oxnard in California.

Thanks to a system which is unique in the automobile industry, Fresse and his colleagues always know what to expect at their destination when they board their flight. Each Bugatti is equipped with a central telemetry computer that continuously collects comprehensive vehicle data, checks their reliability and monitors key functions such as battery voltage or tire pressure. At regular intervals, the computer automatically transmits an up-to-date status report to Bugatti headquarters by satellite, wherever the vehicle may be. Of course, this function is only activated with the customer's permission but almost all customers use this service because the system is highly versatile: for example, position data, consumption figures and lap times can also be determined, if the customer so wishes. If the tire pressure falls, the customer is not only informed by a warning light. The Flying Doctors also receive a message and can take appropriate action. The Flying Doctor principle combined with telemetry benefits Bugatti in two ways: the customer enjoys the best possible service while Bugatti is always linked to its customers in the marketplace.

"Nothing is too beautiful, nothing is too expensive."
Ettore Bugatti
In view of the history of the brand, the unique character of the Veyron and the strictly limited production figures, each vehicle represents an investment. Quality and customer satisfaction are the top priorities for Bugatti. This is why the brand has introduced a special "Bugatti Certified" seal of approval. Owners of older Veyron vehicles receive a guarantee of the highest possible quality following intensive inspection and, if necessary, technical modifications. Jörg Maschwitz, Head of After-Sales, draws a fitting comparison: "The Bugatti is like a valuable painting: the older it gets, the more valuable it becomes. We make sure that each of these automotive works of art is in perfect technical condition."

When Head of Sales Malinowski sits down on the brown leather couch in the "Remise Sud" following almost 3 hours of the Bugatti experience, he can look at the satisfied faces of his guests. In the stables that accommodated Ettore Bugatti's horses many years ago, we find a transition to the modern age. A W 16 engine is proudly exhibited on a plinth and we are surrounded by impressive 20-inch wheels. Paint and leather upholstery samples can be seen behind large, bright doors. If the customer needs advice or has questions concerning exterior or interior equipment, a designer is always available. And a realtime vehicle configuration program is available on a large flat screen.

Then we come to the highlight of the visit: a test drive in a Bugatti. This is when customers meet Pierre-Henri Raphanel. The 53-year-old with the friendly smile has been a test driver with Bugatti since 2005. In 2010, he set the world speed record for production vehicles which stands to this day, recording 431.072 km/h with a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport. For many years, he was a racing driver and took part in the Le Mans 24-hour race on 14 occasions. He hung up his racing helmet in 2000. "I thought that my years of driving fast cars were over. When I received a call from Bugatti, I was over the moon," he remembers, adding: "I wouldn't want to work for any other brand." During his first test drive with the Veyron, he spent seven hours in the car because he simply could not let go of the steering wheel and he was then given the job. "It is the best job in the world," he always says.

Raphanel meets some influential people now, allows them to sit in the most spectacular supercar of its time for 45 minutes and often sees some very surprised faces. There is no doubt that the Bugatti really is very fast. Its incredible acceleration forces you down into your seat and the treatment it gives to your stomach is worse than any rollercoaster. But there is also another side to the Veyron, which is why Raphanel calls the car "Beauty and the Beast". To show just how easy it is to drive a Veyron, he steers the car with two fingers and cruises down the highways of Alsace using the seven-speed DSG transmission. The Bugatti is not just a supercar but also a car that is perfectly well suited to everyday use. In fact, it represents a perfect combination of opposites.

This is what Raphanel wants to show the customer. Although his passenger may not notice it, he has left nothing to chance. Initially, he drives himself so that the customer can overcome his excitement. He explains the special features of the car and answers any questions. "To understand this car, you need to have experienced it yourself," says the former racing driver. Safety is his top priority. With potential customers, he always drives along the same route around Molsheim, without exception.
The route passes through villages, over highways and onto the motorway, so that the characteristics of the Bugatti under all possible conditions are effectively presented. Raphanel knows every bend and every turning inside out. "During a test drive, I bear considerable responsibility for the customer, the company and for myself," he says. If a customer wishes to have a test drive in his own country, Raphanel travels down one day before the appointment to explore a suitable route.

Although many people may envy his job, his work calls for the highest levels of concentration and considerable sensitivity. Bugatti customers are often not used to following rules. He therefore aims to stay in control even when a customer takes the driving seat during a test drive. If necessary, he has a few tricks up his sleeve: "If a customer is driving too fast, I take a photo of him. He then poses and automatically drives slower – instead of expensive photos from the police, he has a pleasant photograph from me as a souvenir."

At any rate, this test driver has a rather different approach to Ettore Bugatti, who could be rather eccentric at times; when asked whether his cars were fitted with brakes, he simply answered: "I make cars to go, not to stop."


Ce qui a été déjà inventé appartient au passé, seules les innovations sont dignes d'intérêt - Ettore Bugatti

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