Bugatti President Stephan Winkelmann should totally get back into parachuting

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Tom Ziora/Bugatti

While Ferrari extended the suspension of its manufacturing activity until May 3, hypercar manufacturers are trying to make the most of people’s extended online presence in various ways. Christian von Koenigsegg decided to send a photographer to his namesake company’s runway in Ängelholm, so that the Jesko prototype, the Jesko Absolut show car, and the hybrid four-seater Gerema can flaunt their lines in the spring sunshine.

Closer to Ferrari’s home, in Modena, Horacio Pagani took us through his current thought processes, which include reflecting on his childhood through the lens of a red Jaguar E-Type, around 120 die-cast models, his moped collection, and a whole set of Porsche 917 coffee mugs (one designated for every mood).

Meanwhile, Bugatti decided to share the daily routine of its President, Stephan Winkelmann, perhaps to assure us all that video meetings are part of the professional game at every level. Our suggestion? He needs to get back into parachuting, but more on that later. Here’s how the former Lamborghini and Audi Sport chief handles his lockdown:

7:00 a.m.: Get up, light breakfast, and then obtain an overview of the day’s news; read national and international press.

“I use a range of different media to find out about what is currently going on in the world, in politics and in business. After all, I need a good overview to be able to assess the markets and general situation correctly and use this information to guide my actions.”

8:30 a.m.: Catch up with emails, start of first Skype meeting with the Comité de Direction, the extended Executive Board.

“At the moment, we talk to Bugatti’s senior management team every morning so that everyone is up-to-date with the current situation in the company and how we are all doing health-wise, also including our business partners. This also involves discussing the latest global developments and how we as a company should react. If we think we need to take action, we discuss the possible solutions in this larger group. It is a joint effort and thrives on active discourse between everyone involved.”

10:00 a.m.: Further conference calls with various departments such as Development, Sales, Design and Marketing.

“Even though none of our hyper sports cars are able to leave our Molsheim site at the moment, we are continuing to work actively where possible. Apart from production, this relates primarily to development and design. Employees keep me informed of the current status, development success, or problems. This also includes the current status of our global business partners. How are they dealing with the situation and how are they continuing to support our customers? We discuss the next steps together so that our work is not impeded by a lack of decisions. Our motto is always the same: the only way we can continue to build the best cars in the world is by talking to one another. The challenges facing the Sales and Marketing departments are particularly tough and we are only able to solve these together.”

Stephan Winkelmann Bugatti President
Tom Ziora/Bugatti

12:00 p.m.: Lunch, watching the news on TV, catching up with emails.

“As well as online magazines in the morning, I catch up with the news at lunchtime by watching TV. As Bugatti is a globally operating brand, both the company and myself have an interest in the news from every region and continent. It is really important to keep up. Due to the time differences between the various regions, lunchtime is a good time to get an idea of what is going on in the world.”

2:00 p.m.: Further phone conferences with the Comité de Produit, the product committee, regarding the development of current and future products, and catch up with emails.

“Bugatti never stands still. Not at the weekends, not over the Christmas holidays, and definitely not on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are no limits to the creativity of our staff; new ideas for new technical solutions or products appear all the time. Consolidating them all is always a particular challenge. During our Comité de Produit conference calls, we discuss the latest developments and sketch out future projects. For me, these are some of the most exciting meetings as they give you a glimpse of all the power and creativity in our company. Things can get a little heated sometimes. However, in my experience, it’s precisely this kind of friction that leads to the best results.”

7:00 p.m.: Endurance sports.

“Since I currently cannot train at the gym or in the pool, I go running for an hour in the early evening and break up my run with a few exercises. This improves my endurance and health, I enjoy it and it gives me time to review the day without my smartphone or computer. This period of meditation also recharges my batteries.”

9:00 p.m.: Private phone calls.

“Every evening at the moment I phone my mother, who lives in southern Germany. This has become a lovely ritual and helps her in particular to get through this difficult time. After that, I usually phone a few friends who are spread all over the world and find out how they are doing.”

10:00 p.m.: Reading.

“For me, the only benefit of the lockdown is that I have more time to read in the evenings. I normally read two books in parallel, one fiction and one non-fiction. However, I am reading two non-fiction books at the moment—a biography of Charles de Gaulle and a book about the French paratrooper units during the Indochina war. There is also a book about the ‘Bugatti Queen’ on my shelf, which tells the story of the French female racing driver Hellé Nice, who drove a Bugatti Type 35 C. This book is next on my list.”

These are the updates we need, Bugatti. Thanks for coming through.

Some may not be aware that having studied in Munich, Stephan Winkelmann served two years in the German Army as a paratrooper, leaving at the rank of lieutenant to pursue a career in the private sector. Two years ago, I asked him whether he had the opportunity to do any parachuting after that, and he said he had not, since it would have been an expensive hobby to pursue at the time, and he was rather busy with his work and studies.

Still, since Winkelmann is now reading a book about the French paratrooper units during the Indochina war, I must point out that the record of the oldest skydiver went to the then 101-years-old British D-Day veteran Verdun Hayes, which means at 55, Winkelmann should have more than enough time to get back into this highly thrilling activity. And while I realize that keeping a social distance on a tight airplane might be impossible, the lockdown provides the perfect opportunity for the President of Bugatti to catch up on rules and regulations, and perhaps commission a special parachute featuring the EB logo. When photographed from above, it would look rather cool, no?

Stephan Winkelmann Bugatti CEO
Winkelmann looks into the distance, probably at his parked Audi. Tom Ziora/Bugatti
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