Rimac's Plan For A $238 Million Factory Started With A Castle

Photo: Rimac Automobili

Ten years ago Mate Rimac had no idea the newly formed company carrying his name would end up supplying Porsche and Hyundai, become synonymous with yet another Richard Hammond crash, or grow so fast he’d have to build a new $238 million campus for 2,500 employees outside of Croatia’s capital, Zagreb. Rimac has gone from struggling to pay employees to a shining example of new Croatian industry, and now it’s planning to build a factory to match its reputation.

(Full Disclosure: Rimac invited me to join a Teams call to talk about its new headquarters project last week. Some of the quotes in this interview have been edited for clarity. Mate Rimac seemed to be a really neat guy.)

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Photo: Rimac Automobili

Mate Rimac, now aware that his company represents a significant part of his country’s future economy, carefully explained the approach to building a new headquarters over a video call last week. The new HQ could not simply be an obnoxious cuboid with a logo slapped up in a corner.

“We work day and night. We work our asses of. I want people to be able to use every little moment they have between meetings or when they need to catch a breath or anything to enjoy their time. To not go crazy just being in the office the whole day. I think it’s the right thing to do to spend time in nature,” Rimac said on the call.

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Photo: Rimac Automobili

That means it’s going to come with a fairly traditional factory, for paint and assembly of Rimac’s electric battery packs and supercars. But the company also has a lot more planned for the space.

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Photo: Rimac Automobili

For the young exec, the new joint had to be a place employees and their families could actually make use of and interact with, rather than a place just to be looked at and admired from afar, or a building to be viewed as a product itself.

“For example, McLaren, I really respect the company and they have a great campus. But it’s designed that the people don’t make a mess out of it,” Rimac added, “We really want to design something around the people, give them the best place to work and [Architects 3LHD] understood everything in terms of requirements and so on. They didn’t try to make a monument for themselves, but actually something that works for the company. And it looked beautiful. I think it was absolutely the right choice.”

When it came to the design, Croatian architecture firm 3LHD got the job, but it wasn’t an easy ride for the local boys. Rimac assembled a huge team to make sure whoever got the top job would be right for the project and the local area.

“We did an international competition. There were really some of the best architects in the world, I would say. I didn’t think out of the big world that some Croatian ones would be the best. But we made it quite professional. We had a jury. Marta was one of the jury members. But we had also a jury with independent members, like construction people to say how feasible it is to build it or expensive. We had people from the city.”

“We are trying to do something bigger here, not just to build our company. But I also try to be patriotic all the way and attract other companies to come here. Unfortunately, there is very, very little foreign investment that’s not related to tourism.”

The renders make the new HQ seem like some otherworldly utopian compound, like something lifted from a Mass Effect game. A few features are worth calling out specifically: For starters, the company test track will be public access, according to the Rimac, “There’s a [test] track. Maybe one key thing is it’s totally integrated with nature and open to the public. It’s probably going to be the only automotive R&D facility without a fence around it, because we as a company are very, very open.”

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Photo: Rimac Automobili

That track incidentally has a special corner: “One of these corners is called mandatory drifting corner. So, when you go through it, you have to drift. You cannot go through it normally.” 

Rimac will also try to keep live sheep and geese living on the campus as well, as the architecture firm apparently determined they well suited to sustaining themselves in “nature.” This no fence thing could get out of control.

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Photo: Rimac Automobili

Human guests visiting for an evening will be put up in one of the onsite guest rooms. Except it’s not really a room, but more of an apartment in the forest. “It’s like, glamping, let’s say,” quips Rimac. Though probably not the kind of glamping that involves a chemical toilet in a wicker shed.

While the animals may not be welcome inside, employee spawn will be more than welcome in the kindergarten.

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Photo: Rimac Automobili

Rimac is not planning to leave the new site the moment more space is needed. He said that should the need arise, there’ll be more standard, boxy sites built to suit battery and powertrain production but that the new campus is going to be the firm’s long term home. Much of Rimac’s call was about the importance of supporting the local and national community.

There is not much industry in Croatia outside of hotels, tourism and hospitality. Rimac hopes that the new facility will attract more business and attention to the country, and help the nation’s PR a touch.

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Photo: Rimac Automobili

The proposed Rimac factory, and the current one, is a big deal: “When there is a foreign visit, some kind of high-level state visit, they go to the government and they bring them to our company. Even now when there is no campus. What can they show them? We are the showcase of the industry, of the country. So it’s going to have a much bigger impact on students and universities, visitors, and the general profile of Croatia.”

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Photo: Rimac Automobili

Rimac didn’t know this was where his company would be 10 years ago, but he did have hope: “There’s a Facebook status I wrote eight years ago in 2012 or ‘13. I was passing by this 15th century castle on my bicycle. I said, ‘I have this crazy dream, which doesn’t make any sense, and probably the chances of making it happen is zero percent. But why not build the production facility next to the castle and have a few offices in the castle and stuff like that?’ I didn’t think we would grow to such a level like we are today. But that same idea kept in my mind and we continued to work on it. So now this is the campus project.”

Though the castle no longer officially factors into the company’s ground plan for the HQ, the land behind this supposed castle is the area where Rimac is indeed now making its new home. That crazy dream kind of came true, and now Rimac will have the castle to look at during lunch breaks.

British car writer/presenter person. I like drinking copious amounts of tea.

DISCUSSION

I like that they are not trying to emulate McLaren’s design language and philosophy. Although beautiful in its own right, it was built to accommodate Ron Dennis’ highly anal retentiveness.