"We wanted to be the first ones to break the 300-mph barrier and we did it, but now we need to focus on other things." This is what Bugatti president Stephan Winkelmann told me at this year's Frankfurt Motor Show. Many auto manufacturers would take a few weeks to enjoy the glow of a momentous achievement like that. Winkelmann, though, is already talking about what's next. Why? Because he doesn't want his company to get pigeonholed into just one performance metric.
"If you look back at the '20s and '30s, Ettore Bugatti has never done only top speed," Winkelmann told me. "I think this was a bit our mistake, in terms of communications, was speaking too much about this. It's clear that if you have a number that is very high, it's very easy to write about it, it's easy to tell a story."
Now, he wants to shift the discussion. "Performance is not just going straight and going very fast, but when you are building a car like the Chiron you are at the peak, at the pinnacle of what you can achieve, so you cannot just do in one car everything."
Winkelmann said the company is working on other Chiron variations, each pushing that base platform into a different direction. "You have to do different cars to highlight different peaks. It's so complex and so over the edge that you cannot cover it with one car. The all-rounder is the base Chiron, then we have a bit more extreme one that is the Sport, and then with the Super Sport we have one that is focused on the longitudinal acceleration and the top speed."
What's next? Winkelmann mentioned one version entirely focused on maximizing power-to-weight, one focused entirely on handling, all based on the same core Chiron platform, which in its basic form does such a remarkable job of blending both outrageous speed and opulent luxury.
And how much longer can that Chiron platform last? "Roughly until the middle of the next decade," Winkelmann said, indicating that the car still has "a lot of potential inside." But it can't live on forever: "We limited the entire production slot of the Chiron to 500 units, so there is a limit of what we can do. Sooner or later we have to concentrate on the followup."
It's too early to talk about what that followup might look like, but Winkelmann said the company is pondering a second model -- "a different type of car" -- that he said might be a "two-plus-two for daily use with more room and more luggage compartment." Most interesting? Winkelmann mentions that electrification could make sense for a car like this, a development that might open the door to a series of new performance benchmarks to shatter.