Bugatti, the ultra-luxury arm of Volkswagen, has a new ride. Naturally, it’s made mostly of carbon fiber, with some titanium and exotic woods thrown in to pretty it up. It features artful lines and exudes impeccable balance. It’s packed with quiet nods to Bugatti’s illustrious history, and the brand will of course tailor the interior to meet each buyer’s demands. The cheapest version will cost more than $2 million.
The Niniette, though has a top speed of just 43 mph—one-sixth that of Bugatti’s most recent model, the Veyron. That’s because the Niniette isn’t a supercar, or even a regular car. It’s a yacht. A “sports yacht,” to be precise.
The Ninette’s offered in three sizes and is the result of a joint project from Bugatti and yacht-builder Palmer Johnson. The name comes from the nickname of Lidia Bugatti, whose father Ettore built racing boats and yachts as well as cars. The mid-sized model, the PJ63, is 63 feet long, contains two salons, room for four guests, and a crew cabin. It costs $3.52 million.
Why a yacht? For Bugatti and other automotive luxury brands that have looked beyond automobiles, the answer has typically been, why not? But this project’s a bit surprising, given that Volkswagen is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis.
The German automaker illegally programmed about 11 million diesel-powered cars to cheat on emissions tests, and the punishment is only starting. The company could face $18.2 billion in fines in the US alone. US sales plunged 25 percent last month, even as the rest of the industry was on pace for record sales. Its facing hundreds of lawsuits from dealers and customers, according to Edmunds.
Credit Suisse estimates the scandal could cost VW $87 billion, though the automaker, which has set aside $7.3 billion, calls that “nonsense,” according to CNN Money. So it’s no surprise the German giant is cutting next year’s R&D budget by about a billion dollars, to $13 billion, the first reduction since 2009. One rumored casualty is the next generation Phaeton luxury sedan, which could be delayed to 2020.
Still, plenty of projects are proceeding. Bugatti remains dedicated to the Veyron’s successor, an even faster car called the Chiron. Oddly, the brand opened showrooms in Miami and New York last month, despite having no cars to sell—the Veyron sold out months ago.
Audi, another VW brand, is moving ahead with plans to revamp nearly 80 percent of its product portfolio in the next three years. That includes a fully electric SUV with about 250 miles of range. “That money, honestly speaking, is already spent,” says Scott Keogh, Audi’s head of US operations. And Lamborghini’s said nothing about scaling down its efforts, which also include an SUV.
Ultimately, the Niniette could prove to be a wise investment if the diesel scandal continues to deepen. It looks like a pretty sweet executive getaway vehicle.