The world’s most expensive new car makes its North American debut this week at the world’s premier luxury auto show, the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance, which kicks off Tuesday in Monterey, California.
Bugatti debuted its one-of-a-kind $18.68 million La Voiture Noire, which translates to The Black Car, at the Geneva International Motor Show in March. The car pays homage to the art deco design of the Type 57SC Atlantic, one of the most coveted classic cars in the world. Designed in 1934 by Jean Bugatti, eldest son of company founder Ettore Bugatti, only four were made. Three are accounted for while the fourth one, which was lost in World War II, would be valued at well over $100 million if found today.
The new La Voiture Noire packs 1,500 horsepower and 1,180 pound-foot of torque that propels it from 0 to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds. It has a quad turbo W-16 engine with a top speed of 261 mph.
“We produced a true one-off, a single unit car that we call automotive haute couture,” said Achim Anscheidt, Bugatti’s design director. “It’s not just a car anymore, it’s really more like a piece of art in line with the highly exclusive fashion and luxury brands in France.”
Bugatti limited the La Voiture Noire’s top speed to give it more touring refinement. The company’s previous limited-run model, the Divo, also traded top speed for a focus on cornering.
“High-speed mode was not relevant for these cars because they had a much different focus. The Divo is made for corners and La Voiture Noire is a Grand Turismo,” said Tim Bravo, a Bugatti spokesperson.
The car at Pebble Beach has already been purchased, but Bugatti isn’t saying who owns it. Rumored buyers have included soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo and Ferdinand Piech, former chairman of the Volkswagen, which owns Bugatti.
“As soon as a customer makes a public claim, then we can refer to that, but other than that we will honor a customer’s anonymity and he will decide whether or not he wants to remain anonymous,” said Bravo.
Whoever it is, he won’t be driving the car any time soon. Bravo said Bugatti still needs about 2½ years to finish and deliver the car.
Bugatti has been making one-of-a-kind and custom-made cars for its ultra-wealthy clients for more than 100 years. The average Bugatti buyer owns roughly 42 vehicles, five homes, three private jets, three helicopters and a yacht, according to Bugatti.
“When you’re wealthy, the thing that you want most after your wealth is to feel special and unique — and someone who pays $18 million for a car gets to claim ‘I bought the most expensive car ever, see how special I am,’” said Karl Brauer, an analyst for Autotrader.
After becoming a part of the VW Group in 1998, the company scrapped custom models in favor of more mass produced, but still incredibly limited, super cars.
The French super car maker envisioned something more exclusive than that for its loyal customers and returned to its coach building roots to offer the Bugatti Divo at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours.
That $5.8 million super car, which was based off the Chiron, was shown to a select group of Chiron customers at Pebble Beach last year. The limited production of 40 Divos sold out that same day, Bugatti said at the time.
“I think it’s brilliant on their part because they’re making a claim that they’re going back to their roots and once upon a time when cars came out they were almost all coach built and they were hard to afford and it was a fairly premium experience,” said Brauer.
La Voiture Noire represents another step in the return to that ultra exclusive heritage.
How exclusive? Well, Bugatti only approached one customer with the sketches and idea for the car.
The company says he bought it on the spot.
“The idea of La Voiture Noire was 100% born within Bugatti, it doesn’t come from the customer. However, with it being a one of one, the customer enjoys the freedom to create specific detailing with us,” said Anscheidt.
Some of those specifics include the car’s six tailpipes, the same as the Type 57SC, a detail recommended by the buyer’s wife.
The buyer also had total design control over is the interior.
Notably, the show car revealed in Geneva sported blacked out windows obscuring the interior. The French carmaker says it’s because the car doesn’t have one yet.
“As to the interior, we wanted to make sure the customer that decided to buy that car could really create the interior to his own gusto,” said Anscheidt. “So, our designers are working hand in hand with the customer to make that interior just 100% like he wants,” he continued.
Despite the price tag, custom car building is a sound business strategy according to analysts like Brauer, since it minimizes the risks associated with designing new models. Put simply, if the buyer is already known, there’s no speculation for what demand for it might be.
“These guys didn’t have to spend hardly anything. It was a phone call and some sketches to a customer to say ‘how about $18 million for this.’ Before they ever had to fire up a metal production machine or hand-stitch the leather, they had a sale,” said Brauer.
Hans Wurl, a specialist at classic car auction company Gooding, called it a “shocker of a valuation.” For collectors, valuing a car like La Voiture is difficult because it’s one of a kind and has never been publicly auctioned before, making it hard to estimate how much someone would pay for it.
“I think that if it came to an open auction today, there’s a very good chance it would not reach the number that it sold for new,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s not a great investment over a period of decades.”
The company showed the new Bugatti at Geneva and the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Italy in May. But this is the first time it’s being displayed in the U.S.
The Concours at Pebble Beach is the industry’s most prestigious car show with automakers often using the six days in Monterey to debut their priciest new cars and concept vehicles.
It also may be one of the few times La Voiture Noire isn’t the most expensive car on the lot.
A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO was sold at last year’s Pebble Beach car week for a record $48.4 million.
“As ridiculous as it may sound to a normal person like you and me, La Voiture Noire is a very reasonably priced car,” said Bravo.
Bugatti has plans to roll out at least four more custom-built cars in the coming years, with another super car rumored to be somewhere between the Divo and La Voiture Noire expected to be revealed at this year’s Pebble Beach Concours.
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