Bugatti was originally founded in France in 1909 by an Italian born designer. The brand was known for its high performance vehicles that were artistic in the designs of the vehicle. The designer, Ettore Bugatti, was from a very artistic family, thus the designs of his cars were often viewed as some of the most appealing and forward thinking designs of the time. For example, Bugatti had the engine scraped by hand to ensure that it was the most smooth and flattest surface that it could be. This meant that gaskets in the engine did not even have to be sealed. Though this may have taken more time for the manufacturer, the idea of never having to seal gaskets was a huge selling factor for the cars. In addition, the cars had a unique way in which the axles were attached. Normal cars bolted the axles and the springs together, however, not a Bugatti car. The axle had a specific hole in which the spring was placed through. This limited the amount of parts that were required on the car, and also reduced the weight, which helped in the performance aspect of the cars.
The engines that Bugatti used were far superior to its time. For example, they were already working on an 8 cylinder engine, when most companies were still focused on the four or six cylinder engine. In terms of performance, Bugatti cars did amazingly well at races. Usually placing within the top four spots of a race in every instance that they did perform in the race. It was during a test drive for one of the new Bugatti race cars, that Ettore's son was killed in a crash while testing. Because of this, the company began to go downhill. Many speculate that was due to the guilt that Ettore was feeling since his son died testing his cars, however, others blame the grief that Ettore suffered and led him to become disinterested in the company. Ettore died in 1947, leaving the company to the point of destruction.
The company did try to make a comeback under Roland Bugatti in the mid 1950s. Roland had the help from a designer that worked with other top performance car manufacturers like Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. However, the car turned out to not meet expectations and this was when Bugatti stopped making cars. In 1987, the company was purchased by Romano Artioli who did succeed in making a few successful vehicles with the company. Artioli also added the Lotus company to work with Bugatti in order to make more successful cars. However, by the time that Artioli released a new car, the auto market was going through a recession and because of this the car did not sell as well as they had hoped. This lead to the shutting of the doors once again.
Currently, Volkswagen owns the rights to Bugatti, and there have been a select few cars that were produced with the Bugatti name. However, the cars today do not have the artistic flare that they did years ago, which may explain the declined popularity.