BERLIN (Reuters) - Bugatti, the maker of exotic supercars such as the 1,200-horsepower Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse, is considering a model that some might feel contradicts the ethos of the extravagant brand: a hybrid.
The French manufacturer, owned by Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), has developed the blueprint for a 2015 follow-up model to the $1.7 million (0.99 million pounds) limited-series Veyron that may sell out this year, two sources at VW group with knowledge of the matter said.
The two-door model may rely on a 1,500-horsepower, 16-cylinder engine and will probably be limited to about 450 cars, the same as the expiring Veyron, the sources told Reuters on Wednesday.
Bugatti's new chief executive Wolfgang Duerheimer, a former R&D boss at Audi and Porsche who returned to the French brand on June 1, favours a hybrid version of the brand's next model, the sources said on condition they not be identified because the matter is confidential.
Ultra-luxury nameplates such as Ferrari FIA.MI, McLaren and Porsche are embracing electric powertrains after being on the cutting edge for years in upgrading chassis and engine electronics while striving to trim CO2 emissions.
Hybrid systems used in McLaren's P1 model and Porsche's 918 Spyder work to boost performance and fuel economy.
"Moving to hybrid propulsion seems like a logical next step" for supercar-makers, said Stefan Bratzel, head of the Centre of Automotive Management near Cologne. "By curbing emissions and boosting performance, they can justify building more of these cars."
The new model will beat the 431 kilometres (268 miles) top speed of Bugatti's Veyron Super Sport, which lost the title of the world's fastest production car in February to the Hennessey Venom GT, sources said.
"The new model will not be less exciting than the Veyron," a spokeswoman for Bugatti said, without being more specific. "Our customers have certain expectations."
Wolfsburg-based VW acquired the Bugatti brand in 1998 along with Lamborghini and Bentley Motors to create a stable of high-end carmakers. VW doesn't break out Bugatti's earnings in quarterly or annual reporting, but a company source says the brand has been loss-making for years on high development costs for the Veyron.
Under VW's reign, the super-luxury brand, which traces its roots back to Italian-born car designer Ettore Bugatti, started production of the Veyron series in 2005. Some 430 of the 450 planned models have been sold, the spokeswoman said.
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Catherine Evans)