Bugatti Automobili SpA, the story of a short Italian success

Along the Brenner motorway, near Campogalliano in the province of Modena, stands an imposing industrial complex which represents an important piece of the history of automobiles in Italy: the Bugatti Cars SpA. Inaugurated on September 15, 1990 on the occasion of Ettore Bugatti’s birthday, this factory represents the highest point of the expansion of the brand under the leadership of Romano Artioli, an Italian entrepreneur who made his fortune by exporting Ferrari cars to Germany. Artioli’s goal was clear: to bring Bugatti back to the international stage by creating a spectacular new supercar.

To do this, a factory worthy of this brand was needed, the factory that today lies sadly abandoned in province of Modena. The positioning was incredibly strategic: despite the fact that the Bugatti headquarters had been in Molsheim, in the north-east of France, Artioli decided to move production to an area that still sees a very high concentration of manufacturing companies. supercar. In fact, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati are all relatively close, which made the procurement of materials easier, but above all made it easier to hire skilled workers in the field.

When one thinks of production lines, one thinks of gray barracks, illuminated by sad neon lights, but in Bugatti this was never the case.

Artioli had a very modern vision of work, certainly different from that typical of the 90s. About 240 people were hired to work at Bugatti, with the aim of creating a large family and not just a company. The construction of the complex was entrusted to Artioli’s cousin, Giampaolo Benedini: a masterpiece came out, an extremely bright and well designed production line – thanks to the presence of imposing windows that still fill the sheds with natural light today – and the futuristic-looking offices. There is even a track to test cars: for the time, it was one of the most modern factories in Italy, if not the world.

Photo: Ken Saito

Today the complex is almost completely abandoned, but it is still open to the public – on request – by Enrico Pavesi, whose family has strong ties with Bugatti Automobili SpA. Enrico’s history is inextricably linked with that of Bugatti, given that his parents met while working in the factory during the 1990s.

Entering the factory is like stepping back in time; in fact, many remains of the equipment of the time remain in the offices, such as large computers with cathode ray tube screens, fax machines, calendars of the time still around.

To make you understand how much Artioli’s vision was so ahead of its time, I want to give you two examples that in my opinion are significant: Bugatti was among the first to create aenvironment dedicated to polluting emissions test in 1992, well before the European Union made it mandatory in 1995. In addition, the Bugatti factory was also the first to organize guided tours inside, well ahead of the competition.

Photo: Ken Saito

The new factory was soon ready for the construction of the EB110, a car that was a huge success all over the world, going sold-out on the Japanese market, and ending up in the garage of important names like the Sultan of Brunei, Ralph Lauren e Michael sSchumacher. In 1994, according to Bloomberg reports, Bugatti raised $ 44 million by selling the EB110.

Initially designed by Marcello Gandini, the car was then modified in aesthetics by Artioli’s cousin, Benedini, who modified the windows, the rear spoiler and the seats, irritating Gandini to the point of leading him to renounce his work on the EB110; the original vision of the car, as envisioned by Gandini, was later proposed under the name of EB110 SS, a cruder and nastier version of the classic one. The latter is equipped with a 550 horsepower engine, while the SS reaches up to 611 horsepower, with a maximum speed of 216 mph equal to 347 km / h. On 23 May 1993, the EB110 SS set the world speed record, 220 miles per hour equal to 354 km / h, thanks to the 3.5 liter V12 engine with 4 turbines designed by Paolo Stanzani.

The success of the EB110 allowed Bugatti to grow, buying the Lotus Car brand from General Motors – useful for putting a foot on the American market by exploiting the Lotus sales network to also offer the EB110. At that same time Lotus was developing a very light small sports car, whose code name was initially “M111” and then became “Lotus E”, until the day Artioli was inspired by his granddaughter to call the car Lotus elise.

Bugatti soon began producing a second car, the EB112. This time the goal was very ambitious, to get even it was necessary to produce at least 350 cars a year: unfortunately it did not go like this, and after having just produced 3 specimens – finished in Turin, Switzerland, and Munich – the company began to have difficulties due to the clashes between Artioli and the project manager of the time, Nicola Materazzi.

Materazzi identified problems with the EB112 shortly before it was ready for sale, and at the same time Artioli found himself having to fight with several suppliers in the area who refused to work with Bugatti due to pressure from other companies in the area. : these two aspects marked the beginning of the end for Bugatti, which officially closed its doors in 1995 after having made 139 examples of EB110, of which 33 SS, and only 3 EB112.

The court of Modena distributed the assets of Bugatti Automobili SpA, e Volkswagen became the owner of the brand; Artioli offered VW the possibility of using the factory, technologies and skilled workers of the Italian headquarters for free, but the German giant had other plans, and very soon brought Bugatti back to Molsheim. The factory was never used again, after it was sold to a furniture manufacturer which went bankrupt before being able to move.

In addition to guided tours by Enrico Pavesi, the complex is also used for automobile rallies, and recently it was also visited by Stephan Winkelmann, president of Bugatti Automobiles SAS, in recognition of the important historical value of the place. Even today, almost 30 years later, Romano Artioli’s vision is incredible, despite the tragic ending, and it is important that the story of Bugatti continues to be told in Italy.

Photo: Ken Saito

Source: Tom's Hardware by

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