The young face of the future of automobiles just wants to tinker with cars.
- Mate Rimac is going to change the world, no question about that. His all-electric Nevera hypercar is one of the quickest cars ever made, and technology from it will wind up in cars all over the world.
- He is now a bonafide global auto executive—CEO of Rimac Automobili and Bugatti—but he would really rather be in the shop making more hypercars.
- We spoke with him briefly at The Quail and found him polite and energetic.
He started out like any other car-crazy kid, with posters of supercars on the wall of his room. Then war in his native Bosnia interfered, his family moved to Germany, and he got interested in electronics. He did well. When he was 18 he bought a rusting, wheezing BMW 3-Series, turned it into a race car, and promptly blew it up in its second race. Rather than source another internal-combustion engine, Rimac found an electric motor from an old forklift, strapped some lead-acid batteries in the back and ovdje! (voila) he started winning.
This led to let’s just say a lot of other things, including founding Rimac Automobili in Sveta Neveldja, Croatia, in 2009, and a commission to build an electric hypercar, which led, in 2011, to the Frankfurt Motor Show and the concept one. From there things just sort of snowballed.
Mate Rimac poses with both the Hypercar of the Year award and the Pioneer of the Year award, which he won at the GQ Car Awards 2022 in association with Michelin on February 24, 2022, in London.
David M. BenettGetty Images
Now Mate Rimac (Mah-tey Ree-matz) seems to be running everything: the top exec at Bugatti, the founder of Rimac (maker of the Nevera), supplier of most parts of the Pininfarina Battista, and the supplier of battery-electric tech to everyone from Aston Martin (the Valkyrie) and Jaguar (the electric E-Type) to Cupra (a spinoff of Seat, which itself is owned by Volkswagen). One could reasonably expect to see Rimac-made or supplied supercars from Porsche, Hyundai, and gawd-knows-who else.
So when we saw him there on the Rimac stand at The Quail, naturally, we said hello.
Autoweek: Congratulations on the production Nevera and all the other stuff you’ve got going. It’s impossible to keep straight exactly what you own, and what you don’t own. So I guess we can assume there’s a lot of interesting Rimac stuff that’s going to go out to a lot of different companies because, I’m thinking, Porsche, Hyundai’s got a thing with you guys, your own cars…
Mate Rimac: Aston Martin, Pininfarina, Koenigsegg, and many others that you don’t know of yet.
MR: Oh yeah.
MR: We’re not sleeping much.
AW: But you’re still having a good time.
MR: Yeah, you know, I wanted just to make cars. But then you end up, like 90% of your time is not making cars. It’s like, people, financiers, investors, media (he looks at us). So all of this stuff around but it’s a part of it.
AW: So you started out with a green BMW (the converted electric race car).
MR: Yes. Somebody, just 10 minutes ago, gave me a good idea next year. I’ll bring the car here.
AW: Yeah, so it still runs and everything?
MR: No, no. It’s like, a guy totaled it—like, seven years ago. And every year I want to refurbish it. And now he gave me a good deadline. Like next Quail it has to be done.
AW: Did he crash it head-on in the front?
MR: Yeah, he hit like, into the (Rimac) factory. Severely damaged my car.
AW: He drove your car straight into the side of your factory? I hope this guy had insurance.
MR: No, he’s an employee.
AW: Never give your car to an employee.
MR: No, no.
AW: Anyway, congratulations on the new car (the Nevera, just put into production).
Mate Rimac five years ago with the Concept One.
DENIS LOVROVICGetty Images
AW: I got to drive it once and it’s mind-blowing.
MR: Oh, you did?
AW: Yeah. I drove this one (green car on the stand), and I drove the Pininfarina (Battista) last week. It’s like you have to recalibrate your brain.
MR: It’s very similar (the Battista to the Nevera).
AW: Yeah, it’s very similar. Pininfarina is kind of saying it’s more of a GT and Nevera is more of a sports car. But it’s really hard to tell the difference. How do you see it? Do you see that? GT and sports car?
MR: We build most of (the Battista) in Croatia, so everything under the skin is the same. A little bit calibration difference, but…
AW: It was mind blowing. I mean, yeah, nobody’s used to zero to 60 in two seconds.
MR: Yeah, yeah. It’s crazy.
And with that, he thanked us and off he went, probably to meet with investors, or customers, or media, who knows? But we do know where he’s going, and he’s taking the auto industry along with him.
Mark Vaughn Mark Vaughn grew up in a Ford family and spent many hours holding a trouble light over a straight-six miraculously fed by a single-barrel carburetor while his father cursed Ford, all its products and everyone who ever worked there.