Bugatti is the jewel in Volkswagen’s crown. This 33-year-old is taking it over

Serge Toubiana will be taking over from CEO Patrick Vieira in 2021. But the company says ‘it would not be appropriate’ to discuss the reason behind the change

Bugatti is the jewel in Volkswagen’s crown. This 33-year-old is taking it over

Serge Toubiana is replacing Patrick Vieira as chief executive of Bugatti next year. Toubiana will join Bugatti in the first quarter of 2019, the luxury carmaker announced on Monday.

A controversial hire given Vieira, son of French footballing legend Patrick Vieira, will step down from his role as Volkswagen’s general manager.

The younger Vieira has not yet offered a reason for his decision, although a VW spokesman said he was “well informed and happy” with the move.

But he has not proved popular with shareholders, who are generally not happy with Vieira’s leadership style. At VW’s annual shareholders’ meeting in June, his plan to revive the second-tier Ducati brand met with a series of angry jeers and protests.

VW announced the decision to recruit Toubiana as part of its announcement last week on a new design director for the Bugatti division, Olivier Fabrycky.

A VW spokesman said: “We would not be appropriate to discuss the reason behind this change.”

Fabrycky, a former general manager of Renault Renault Trucks, had been hired to replace Frank Anker Widmann, who left the company last year after executives behind the launch of Bugatti Chiron criticised his style and style of management.

Vieira’s decision to resign earlier this month was an abrupt one, even for him. Just last week, at the Frankfurt motor show, he had seemed relaxed about his role. “I am not interested in one bit in the VW business,” he told reporters.

Vieira said the choice of Toubiana was an opportunity to start fresh.

“This new moment presents us with a chance to continue the journey which we have started,” he said in a statement.

Bugatti was first created in 1923 by Ernst Heich and Adolphe Bairel, the founders of Audi. It was an experiment in combining performance and luxury. Bugatti built a few dozen exotic cars, but disappeared shortly after and was bought by Bugatti Automobiles, which is now part of Volkswagen, in 1967.

The carmaker’s long struggle to revive the brand culminated in the Chiron, which won awards including a luxury car of the year gong. Bugatti spent an estimated £500m on the car.

The milestone car beat its own sales expectations. But within a year, Bugatti, a division of VW’s luxury unit, was set to lose money. It made €6m in 2016, well below an expected €16m profit, according to Vogel, a financial analyst at Stifel Financial Corp.

Vieira was brought in to help the division swing to a profit by 2020. In February, VW lowered its full-year forecast for its luxury and performance brands to a mid-to-high single-digit percentage increase. That compares with 13% growth this year at Audi and slightly less than 10% at Porsche.

Widmann joined Bugatti in 2015 after 20 years at Audi. He had been responsible for the development of the Chiron and the legendary Bugatti Veyron, which earned the title of world’s fastest production car with a top speed of 217mph.

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