"There is not a problem of price," said Pierre-Henri Raphanel. "Our customers are accustomed to paying at least 20 million euro for a yacht and 50 million for a jet, and so the two million price tag for the Bugatti Vitesse is just a confirmation of its exclusivity."
Exclusive it is. The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse is a car made to order. No more than 50 cars leave the works every year. Pierre-Henri Raphanel, official driver at Bugatti, performs up to 100 customer drives and up to 200 media drives all over the world. The markets showing best results are the USA, the Middle East and Europe, all at about 25% of the total. Within Europe, the UK leads with about 45 cars sold so far, then the Netherlands with seven or eight cars, and then France with five. The statistics are confirmed by the size and duration of Bugatti clubs in different countries. The British branch is the oldest in the world.
But what about Italy?
"Italians are very patriotic. They admire Bugatti but Ettore Bugatti set up his company in the Alsace in France. So in their eyes the company is French. So they would rather buy three Ferraris than one Bugatti."
The chance to be able to talk to Pierre-Henri suggested the obvious question. What does it feel like to drive a 1,200-horsepower car? A car with a 7.9 litre, 16-cylinder engine producing 1,500 Nm torque, a performance of 0-100 km/h in 2.6 seconds, and a top speed of 410 km/h? Without doubt, the fastest production roadster ever.
"The feel of acceleration is incredible, because you have a car that is close to Formula 1 performance, but you are driving it on normal roads at normal conditions. This means a unique feeling of speed and power. A Formula 1 driver recently test-drove the car, and after putting it through its paces, he returned with a big smile on his face. The dimension of power is huge; it cannot be compared with anything else on the market. You just don't have a point of reference: just consider that you have twice the performance of anything else on the road. And I mean double: not just five or ten percent extra."
Do you have to be very skilled to control all that power?
"That's one of the remarkable characteristics of the Vitesse. It incorporates a massive amount of technology, so that everyone can drive it. You don't need advanced driving skills. I often say, if you want to be a better driver, just buy a Bugatti!"
You're buying a lot of engineering: fast-response shock absorbers adapted from Formula 1, perfect steering balance through optimized wheel-load fluctuation, modified chassis, and a reinforced seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Suspension height varies with speed, with automatic or manual regulation.
"All this means that you can put your foot hard on the brake pedal at 300 km/h and the car stays totally in line even with two fingers on the steering wheel. I know for a fact that some of our cars are driven very successfully by women of an advanced age. They love it too."
In other words, it is fully in line with today's trend towards user-friendlier cars. And it's exclusive. The total number of units will not exceed 150.
Some technical specifications:
Power output: 882 kW (1,200 HP) at 6,400 rpm
Max torque: 1,500 Nm at 3,000-5,000 rpm
Gearbox: 7-gear DSG
Power distribution: front axle differential with Haldex clutch; rear axle with transverse differential lock
Wheel brake cylinders: 8 front, 6 rear
Top speed: 410 km/h
Acceleration: 2.6 sec 0-100 km/h; 16 secs 0-300 km/h
Fuel consumption, combined: 23.1 l/100 km