The Molsheim Dream Factory
Peeking into the Bugatti Chiron production facility
Tucked within a historical region in northeastern France on the Rhine River plain is the Molsheim facility, home to Bugatti since it was founded in
1909. This year, Bugatti is making automobile fantasies come to life with its latest Chiron models – fully customised according to the customer’s preference. Personalising has always been a top priority for the brand and it is what makes them stand out from other luxury super cars in the market.
The basic exterior range includes 23 topcoat colours and eight carbon variants, while the interior supports 31 leather options or eight alcantra leather colours, together with 30 types of stitchings, 18 carpets and 11 belts to choose from. Thousands of other colours are available should the client choose something more elaborate, for example, to match their favourite handbag or the label on a preferred brand of mineral water. In addition, other design options such as logos or initials can be added at the bottom of the rear spoiler or embroidered onto the
headrest and leather inlays on the central console – providing it meets Bugatti’s high quality requirements. This “La Maison Pur Sang” customising programme ensures that the brand is able to cater to every wish and demand possible.
The vehicles are only produced after all customisation is confirmed and takes approximately six months before the production slots are being allocated to the car. Once the parts arrive in Molsheim, it is time for assembly, beginning with the bodyshell being attached to the monocoque and chassis substructure to ensure that it fits perfectly. Once done, that will then transfer to a paint shop where it takes about three weeks to apply the various coats of paint. Bugatti is world renowned for its visible carbon fibre and diversity of colours, which comprises six layers. For the top coat, it is an additional eight layers depending on the type of finish – uni, metallic or pearlescent. This extremely time-consuming process is all handcrafted, from painting to sanding and eventually polishing, layer after layer.
Christophe Piochon, a member of the Bugatti Board of Management is responsible for Production and Logistics, and watches over production, making sure that all processes run smoothly and that there are no hitches. “Here in Molsheim, we have a small factory with a small warehouse. Neither our equipment nor our procedures can be compared with those of other car plants,” says the 40-year-old mechanical engineer, who worked in quality assurance with the Volkswagen Group before joining Bugatti. “’Just-in-time’ has a very special dimension for Bugatti,” he adds.
The production building is named “Atelier” by Bugatti, and covers a floor area of 1,000sqm in all. It was inaugurated in 2005 and has an oval configuration, based on the French brand’s logo, the Bugatti “Macaron”. It was designed by the famous architect Professor Gunter Henn from Munich and has been producing notable automobiles for the past decade, including the Veyron 16.4 and its derivatives. For the Chiron, many modifications were made in the Atelier. Exterior components are pre-assembled in the technology centre within the plant before subjected to initial inspections. A significant change of the Atelier is the flooring, made from epoxy as it is conductive and ensures the dissipation of any electrostatic charges. The reflecting glossy white also creates an atmosphere comparable with the catwalk of a fashion house. “We are building a super sports car. That is quite clear,” says Christophe Piochon. “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‘“.
There are no conveyor belts or robots found in the Atelier. People, similarly to the workshop of a Formula One team, tend all the workstations. Altogether, there are 12 main stations and customers can even spend a day working on their own sports car should they be interested. After the Chiron is painted, most customers would have already paid a visit to Molsheim to test drive a demonstration vehicle, sign the contract of agreement and witness the configuration of their personal Chiron. The car eventually leaves the production facility two months after, during this time, 20 employees would have assembled a total of 1,80 individual parts to create the world’s most powerful, luxurious and exclusive super car. 17 logistic employees and 15 quality assurance colleagues also support the process.