Bugattis were well known for the beauty of their designs (Ettore Bugatti was from a family of artists and considered himself to be both an artist and constructor) and for the large number of races that they have won. The death of Ettore Bugatti in 1947 proved to be the end for the marque, and the death of his son Jean in 1939 ensured there wasn't a successor to lead the factory. No more than about 8000 cars were made. The company struggled financially, and released one last model in the 1950s, before eventually being purchased for its airplane parts business in the 1960s. Today the name is owned by Volkswagen Group, who have revived it as a builder of limited production exclusive sports cars.
Founder Ettore Bugatti was born in Milan, Italy, and the automobile company that bears his name was founded in 1909 in the town of Molsheim located in the Alsace. The company was known both for the level of detail of its engineering in its automobiles, and for the artistic way in which the designs were executed, given the artistic nature of Ettore's family (his father, Carlo Bugatti (1856–1940), was an important Art Nouveau furniture and jewelry designer). The company also enjoyed great success in early Grand Prix motor racing, winning the first ever Monaco Grand Prix. The company's success culminated with driver Jean-Pierre Wimille winning the 24 hours of Le Mans twice (in 1937 with Robert Benoist and 1939 with Pierre Veyron).
Bugatti's cars noticeably focused on design. Engine blocks were hand scraped to ensure that the surfaces were so flat that gaskets were not required for sealing, many of the exposed surfaces of the engine compartment featured Guilloché (engine turned) finishes on them, and safety wires had been threaded through almost every fastener in intricately laced patterns. Rather than bolt the springs to the axles as most manufacturers did, Bugatti's axles were forged such that the spring passed though a carefully sized opening in the axle, a much more elegant solution requiring fewer parts. He famously described his arch competitor Bentley's cars as "the world's fastest lorries" for focusing on durability. According to Bugatti, "weight was the enemy".
Volkswagen AG purchased the rights to produce cars under the Bugatti marque in 1998. They commissioned ItalDesign to produce the Bugatti EB118 concept, a touring saloon (sedan), which featured a 408 kilowatts (555 PS; 547 bhp), and the first W-configuration 16-cylinder engine in any passenger vehicle, at the Paris Auto Show.
In 1999, the Bugatti EB 218 concept was introduced at the Geneva Auto Show; later that year the Bugatti 18/3 Chiron was introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA). At the Tokyo Motor Show, the EB 218 reappeared, and the Bugatti EB 16.4 Veyron was presented as the first incarnation of what was to be a production road car.