Many doubted this day would ever come, reports Automotive News Europe. But six years after its auto show debut and two years after a humiliating crash the Bugatti Veyron finally has reached the assembly line.

Volkswagen started serial production here last week of its E1 million, 1,001hp supercar. And Bugatti is already considering a second model, probably a four seater that will share the Veyron’s 16-cylinder engine.

The Veyron project has been in doubt since 2003 when the car spun off California’s Laguna Seca racetrack on the first lap of its public debut. That is just one of the problems the car has faced since it first appeared at the 1999 Tokyo auto show.

Thomas Bscher, a former banker who took over as president of Automobiles Bugatti from Karl-Heinz Neumann in 2003, said he had to completely redesign the original concept.

“When I arrived, I was faced with over 600 collision points [engineering conflicts] in the car’s design,” Bscher said in an interview here last week.

Bscher’s program had to deliver a product that met bold, public promises: a car with 1000hp and a 400kph top speed. But in 2003, the Veyron had two glaring problems. The exotic engine overheated and the car was unstable at high speeds. Most engineering changes were to solve those problems. Now Bscher must focus on the business case for an exotic brand owned by Europe’s largest automaker.

Can Bugatti make a profit?

A VW group spokesman said: “It is not realistic to expect short-term profitability.” Bugatti intends to build a total of 300 Veyrons over five years. At list price, that’s E300 million in revenue.

“We have firm orders with down payments for about 30 cars now,” Bscher said. Some customers bought two: one to drive and one to keep as an object of art. VW and Bugatti have been secretive about finances. Bscher opened up slightly. He said investment so far could be compared “with one year of Formula One engagement.” Industry insiders say that is up to E300 million. Bscher needs to control costs and boost revenues, or both. So Bugatti is planning a second model. Unlike earlier rumors, it won’t be a small sports car.

“We have such a great engine and drivetrain, we better use it again in another large model,” Bscher said. “I see it as a four-seat car, with front engine and its own unique chassis.”

For cost reasons, Bugatti will not exhibit at the IAA in Frankfurt or the 2006 Detroit auto show. “It would have cost us half a million E,” Bscher said. “We will only go to Tokyo, Los Angeles and Geneva.”

Automotive News Europe