YOU GET what you pay for. And if you pay €1.7m ($1.9m), next year you can take delivery of an electric car that can reach 412kph (256mph). The C_Two, says Mate Rimac, who builds them, is the most powerful road car ever. “Not electric, not hybrid, not combustion engine, but ever.” (Definitional issues mean his claim is sure to be contested, for example by Bugatti or Hennessey.) If you allow time to charge the battery after every 650km, but ignore speed limits, traffic jams and a wait for the Channel Tunnel, you could leave Sveta Nedelja, the town outside the Croatian capital where they are being built, after lunch and be in London, 1,650km away, for dinner.
Croatia’s economy grew by 2.8% last year but Mr Rimac’s company left it in the dust. A year ago he employed 200 people; now he says he employs 500. In a few years he expects to employ thousands. Thanks to a low national birth rate and high emigration, Croatian companies are experiencing labour shortages. But finding workers is not Mr Rimac’s problem. The trouble is that nobody in Croatia has the right experience.
“Eight and a half years ago I was one man in my garage,” says the 31-year-old entrepreneur. Now he is planning a 50,000 square-metre campus for his company that other countries would “give their liver for”. He thinks many of his compatriots don’t like him because they believe he just builds cars for rich people, and because they don’t celebrate success. In fact, he says, the 150 new cars he is building are really “the showcase of our technology and a test bed for our technologies”. Jeremy Clarkson, the host of a popular motoring show, said of the earlier version—which cost €1.2m and had a top speed of 355kph—that he had never seen anything “with number plates” move as fast.
But will Mr Rimac stay in Croatia? He pulls up a map that shows where Europe’s carmakers and suppliers are. Within striking distance of Croatia there is a forest of dots from northern Italy through to Bavaria and down to Romania and Serbia, but in Croatia itself, “zero”, he says bluntly. “I have stayed here because of patriotism, but realistically it would have been much easier and much better for the company to be somewhere else,” he says. Unlike Nikola Tesla, another electrically gifted citizen of what is now Croatia, he is staying put for now.