STEPHAN WINKELMANN, PRESIDENT, BUGATTI AUTOMOBILES S.A.S.
BY Shereen Shabnam
The true form of luxury is individuality and Bugatti’s ‘La Voiture Noire’ is now at the cutting edge of automobile production. It is a sculptural beauty with unique technology so we meet Berlin born, 55 year old Stephan Winkelmann who is the President of Bugatti Automobiles SAS, to know more about him and his career at Bugatti.
Stephan went to school at Deutsche Schule Rom. His father was a diplomat so the family moved to Rome when he was a toddler and he grew up there with fond memories of his childhood, playing outside and riding the motorbike with friends. He studied Political Science, first at the University of Rome, then later in Munich, where he received his final degree.
Stephan spent most of his career in the automotive business in Italy or working for Italian companies. His presidency at Lamborghini for 11 years was the first job within the Volkswagen Group and also the longest time at a single company. He still has very fond memories of Lamborghini and his life at Sant’Agata Bolognese ad keeps his home in Italy. After two years at the head of Audi Sport he started at Bugatti in January of 2018 as President, and moved to Strasbourg, near the headquarters at Molsheim, France.
Stephan is proud of what he and his team have developed and the record time in creating the Bugatti Divo, a new hyper sports car more focused on lateral acceleration. Bugatti sold all 40 units even before officially presenting the car to the public.
Celebrating the 110thanniversary of Bugatti with a year full of activities and projects including presenting ‘La Voiture Noire’ in Geneva, and Dubai, bears testimony of the work Stephan and his team have done to set Bugatti on the right track for the future.
Bugatti is a niche product, positioned at the very pinnacle of the automotive world – first with the Veyron, then followed with the Chiron, and now even more with Divo or a one-off like ‘La Voiture Noire’.
Stephan mentions that Bugatti’s stability comes from havingvery loyal customers because of the outstanding automobiles. To grow, his team will need to produce a second model with more units than the 500 that they make of the Chiron butBugatti produced and delivered less than 80 cars in 2017 and 2018, which reflects the exclusivity of the cars.
Stephan adds, “Bugatti has a long and proud history, and everything we do builds upon this legacy. This is a big privilege, but also a huge responsibility moving forward. This is why we are doing everything in our power to let the name Bugatti shine as bright as it deserves, today, tomorrow, and beyond. Our rear view mirrors are important as we have to know what is behind us in order to understand who and where we are today. The windshield, however, is always bigger, and we have to look ahead to keep moving forward.”
As Bugatti has a very individual and unique relationship with customers who are part of the Bugatti family, Stephan mentions the brand arranges Bugatti experiences and family gatherings instead of traditional promotions. Bugatti experiences team is working hard for this special anniversary year and Stephan believes the highlight will without doubt be the Grand Tour in September with customers from Milan (the birthplace of Ettore Bugatti) via Monaco, Lyon, Paris all the way to Molsheim, the home of Bugatti.
Speaking of the Bugatti La Voiture Noire, Stephan mentions that it is a coupé with the comfort of a luxury limousine and the power of a hyper sports car. A pioneering spirit, a passion for perfection and the desire to continually redefine its limits have been the key characteristics of Bugatti since the brand was established 110 years ago.
According to Stephan, the Bugatti history is both a privilege and a responsibility for continuing the Bugatti heritage into the future. “With ‘La Voiture Noire’, we are paying homage to our heritage and bringing speed, technology, luxury and aesthetics forward to a new era. The new hyper sports car reflects Bugatti’s French heritage and its French identity – elegance through minimalism and refinement through intensification. This is a tailor-made creation only comparable with the haute couture of exclusive Paris fashion designers,” continued Stephan.
The exclusive new ‘La Voiture Noire’, the black car, is a reminiscence of the original ‘La Voiture Noire’ – a Type 57 SC Atlantic that was Jean Bugatti’s most famous creation. The outstanding design feature was a dorsal seam running from the hinge in the split bonnet through to the rear end. The Type 57 SC Atlantic was one of the most extraordinary grands tourismes and a timeless creation.
Nowadays, it is one of the most valuable classic cars in the world. Only four Atlantics were made between 1936 and 1938, each of them with detailed differences created individually for a customer. Three of these extraordinary coupés are still in existence. The second car built was used by Jean Bugatti himself as well as some of the Bugatti grand prix drivers among his friends. The world has been searching for this Atlantic for more than 80 years – it is one of the great mysteries in the history of the automobile.
The new ‘La Voiture Noire’ is just as exclusive, powerful and luxurious as Jean Bugatti’s historic car. Bugatti arouses passion and emotions throughout the world with customers expecting to be continually surprised beyond the limits of their imagination. Stephan reckons Bugatti has succeeded in doing so with ‘La Voiture Noire‘.
Bugatti will continue to work hard to shape the future of the brand. This will be a future full of beauty, passion and surprises. The ‘La Voiture Noire’ is a modern interpretation of the spirit of gran turismo vehicles, a tribute to perfect technology and perfect design. It is also the most elegant and fastest way to travel with a vehicle.
With all the innovative work, Stephan enjoys current role as the head of Bugatti and goes to work every morning full of energy and ideas. Stephan concludes the interview by reiterating that in the automotive haute couture scene, Bugatti has shown what it is capable of – now and in the future.