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Inside the Bugatti Chiron Factory

Everything you need to know about the anticipated new Bugatti Chiron

How is my Bugatti Chiron coming along, anyway? Assuming you’ve ordered one, it’s not an unreasonable question. With the very first Chiron available for delivery this April,  most of us would probably be wondering the same thing. You’ll be spending, what, at very least €2.4 million and there’ll only be 70 Chirons manufactured in 2017 out of the planned production of 500. So yes, you’re more than entitled to know what’s the hold up over there.

The Bugatti Chiron is the successor to the heavens almighty Veyron – often described as the greatest non-analogue supercar of all time. Now it seems the people at the Molsheim factory in France are setting about going that one bit better. Take the car’s performance numbers. They are sufficiently outrageous to make even Kellyanne Conway recheck the quoted facts. This is an engineering monster: 7993cc, 16 cylinders, four turbochargers, 1,500hp (yes, 1,500), 1,600Nm torque, 0-100km/h/60mph in 2.5 seconds, 0-200km/120mph in 6.5 seconds and top speed limited to 420km/h or 260mph. (Although it’s whispered the top speed is likely it be nearer 463km/h or 288mph.) Fuel consumption? It’s reported an excellent 18.5mpg in urban areas but drops just a bit when stuck in traffic. Bugatti claim a lonely 8mpg.

It takes roughly nine months to hand assemble a car by 20 highly skilled engineers

If you’ve ever wondered how the “Haute Couture de l’Automobile” production goes through its process, Luxury London was given a rare insight into the Four Seasons of factories from beginning to end. For starters, the Alsace based production facility - home of Bugatti since its foundation in 1909 - is not a factory at all; it’s an Atelier and it takes roughly nine months to hand assemble a car by 20 highly skilled engineers. Before you actually order your own car you’re invited to visit the factory for a walkthrough of the configuration options. The potential for bespoke work is endless but a Bugatti designer’s steady hand guides an understandably over-excited owner through the most critical initial process.

When configuring a Chiron’s exterior, you can choose from 23 colour options and eight carbon fibre finishes. Inside, pick from 31 different leather colours (eight of Alcantara), 18 carpets and unbelievably 11 seatbelt colours. By using Bugatti’s La Maison Pur Sang customising programme you can even have the name of your partner emblazoned on the headrests or outside on the bottom of the rear spoiler. 

Now the assembly process can begin. The bodyshell, monocoque and chassis substructure is assembled and sent to the paint shop, and it's here that a process unheard of in the motor industry emerges. It takes three full weeks for the team to hand-paint all parts and surfaces – requiring up to eight layers of paint depending on the type of finish. Only then does the actual assembly commence. “Here in Molsheim we have a small factory with a small warehouse. Neither our equipment nor our procedures can be compared to those of other plants, “ says Christophe Pichon, Bugatti Board member and head of production and logistics.

Designed by the renowned German architect Professor Gunter Henn, the production facility has been open since 2005 and it’s here within this hallowed 1,000 square metres of space that all Bugatti Veyrons came to life. In automotive legend, this is sacred ground that rivals Maranello or Sant’Agata. To properly accommodate the new Chrion and its immeasurably complex manufacturing process, modifications were made that resulted in exterior components being preassembled at the technology centre. Christophe explains the changes: “[The floor] is now conductive to help dissipate electrostatic charges. In addition the reflecting glossy white creates an atmosphere comparable to a catwalk of a fashion house. We are building a super sports car, that is clear. But it is the way we do it, hand-crafting an individual product for each customer in this very special atmosphere, that makes us unique. This is Haute Couture de l’Automobile."

Assembly of each Chiron is undertaken at 12 separate stations. These include the 628kg powertrain which arrives at Molsheim pre-assembled from the VW plant in Salzgitter. Bugatti are at pains to point out the powertrain weights no more than that of the Veyron which was 300hp less powerful due the use of composite materials in its manufacture. Next, it’s the chassis. There are two chassis building platforms in the Atelier and the same team assembles it along with the rear end, monocoque and frame. It’s then that the monocoque and front end are joined together and this begins the process of installing wiring looms, radiators, hoses and three water pumps. 1,800 bolted joints are used on every Chiron. 

By far the biggest assembly milestone – the marriage – happens when the monocoque and rear end are joined together by 14 titanium bolts (each bolt weighs just 34 grams). Once the four wheels are bolted on the car rolls to the filling station. It’s here that all fluids – and there are a lot needed to cool 16 cylinders –  are added. These include brake fluids, hydraulic fluids, coolant and transmission oil when, finally, the engine is started for the very first time. After inspection, the car travels to a rolling dynamometer where it is fastened to the floor using special adapters. With an engineer behind the wheel the car is tested to speeds of up to 200km/h under full power acceleration and is tested for up to 3 hours travelling at up to 60kms.

Once passed that particular test the car moves to the pre-assembly area that is 200 metres away from the Atelier. Here body parts are installed over four days and before undertaking a water test and the interior fitting are added. Now the Chiron is born and readied for its first test drive covering 300km that includes testing time on the Autohbahn. It’s not over yet, as the Chiron arrives back at the paintshop for examination polishing and finally into a light tunnel to identify the smallest imperfections invisible to a naked eye.

Unlike most companies, owners can have the opportunity to visit the factory and witness their own car being assembled and even get the chance of working on their own car. It’s takes a further 2 months for the Chiron they ordered 9 months previously to be, breathlessly, delivered. Good to know if you’re spending €2.4 Million or more.