The performance car world can be brutal for automakers. It becomes even more intense as you move into the limited-series supercar category. Within this niche space, performance alone is not a sure guarantee for success.
Just ask Apollo Automobil (previously called Gumpert Sportwagenmaufaktur GmbH). The boutique carmaker produced arguably one of the most outstanding performance supercars of its time. Yet, it still bottomed out and went bankrupt.
To its credit, Apollo was able to bounce back and lives on today as the brains behind the otherworldy-looking Intensa Emozione hypercar. This was no happenstance. Apollo was able to charm its way back into the realm of hypercar royalty with a well-executed strategy and, of course, lots of investment capital.
The Man Behind The Brand
Apollo Automobil was steeped in uncompromising performance from the beginning. It’s a mindset that draws directly from the experiences of the company’s founder, Roland Gumpert. The German engineer started his career with Audi as a test engineer way back in 1969. He rose steadily through the ranks, and by 1981, Gumpert became Audi’s Head of Sport and Special Development. As Race director, he steered the German carmaker to an impressive 25 Rallye titles and four World Rally Championship titles.
In 2004, Roland Gumpert departed Audi and established his own automobile company – Gumpert Sportwagenmaufaktur GmbH. Given his motorsports experiences at Audi, it was no surprise that the company’s first major project was to build a track-focused supercar. Roland’s dream was to create a track machine that one could still drive on public roads. In that sense, he did succeed in a big way.
The Gumpert Apollo Ticks Almost All The Right Boxes
The Gumpert Apollo was Roland’s first creation post-Audi. The supercar was the realization of Roland’s vision – a race-oriented street legal machine. At its heart was a formidable twin-turbocharged V8 powerplant that made anywhere from 650 hp to 800 hp, depending on the model variant. The Gumpert Apollo boasted performances that put it right at the top of its class. It could rocket to 62 mph in just 3.1 seconds and continue on to a 223 mph top speed.
Design-wise, the Gumpert Apollo prioritized function over form. Every groove, cut or flap was fashioned to maximize downforce with little regard for the car’s overall aesthetics. The result was a brutal machine that took the car community by storm. In 2009, the Gumpert Apollo even set a Nurburgring record, lapping the circuit in 7:11.57 seconds. Back then, it was enough to make it the quickest production car around the infamous Green Hell.
Unfortunately, the Gumpert Apollo’s controversial design was also a significant contributing factor to its eventual downfall. The market just was not ready for such a polarising design, performance king or not. To make matters worse, the Gumpert Apollo was not cheap. The base version cost half a million dollars, a sticker price that turned many potential customers away.
It wasn’t long before sales floundered, despite the carmaker’s best efforts to lure buyers, especially in the European and Chinese markets. To be fair, the Gumpert Apollo did generate a lot of interest, but it just was not translating to sales. Gumpert produced the supercar from 2005 to 2012 before the company became insolvent. There was a flicker of hope the following year when there was serious investor interest in bailing the company out. However, talks collapsed, and the carmaker flatlined, declaring bankruptcy and slipping out of sight.
The Rebirth Of A Strong Name
The Apollo story did not end with its bankruptcy. In 2016, Ideal Team Venture, a Hong Kong-based investment consortium, purchased the company and renamed it Apollo Automobil GmbH. That same year, the reformed company unveiled a concept called the Apollo Arrow at the Geneva Auto Show.
The concept used a carbon-fibre tub and frame derived from the Gumpert Apollo. Initially, there were plans to put the Arrow into production, but they were shelved as Apollo Automobil’s new owners decided a more radical direction for the company’s growth was needed.
A completely new model, under the project name ‘Titan,’ was announced. It would eventually become the track-only Apollo Intensa Emozione or, just simply, the Apollo IE. The car’s name is Italian for ‘intense emotions.’ It aptly describes the rush of feelings the hypercar aims to communicate with its striking appearance and performance. There is nothing quite like the Apollo IE, a car whose design was inspired by aviation and apex predators like sharks and raptors.
Like the Gumpert Apollo, the Apollo IE’s design is polarising – you either love it or loathe it. However, unlike its ill-fated predecessor, the Apollo IE seemed to enjoy more acceptance within the car community. This was partly due to the company’s aggressive publicity campaign. In the months and years following its initial unveiling, the Apollo IE popped up at countless high-profile car events all over the world. In each of those events, the car stood out among rival offerings from established hypercar brands like Bugatti and Koenigsegg.
Despite the strong interest in the car, Apollo Automobil GmbH decided to build only ten units to preserve the car’s exclusivity in a community where rarity is key. It is a valid reason, but one might also put down the carmaker’s cautious approach to lessons learned with the Gumpert Apollo. In any case, the Apollo Intensa Emozione was principally meant to announce the carmaker’s re-entry into the highest levels of performance and design. Measured against that criteria, it’s fair to conclude they succeeded. All the planned ten units were quickly taken up by wealthy collectors. Today, the Apollo Intensa Emozione hypercar still occasionally pops up at car shows, where they continue to garner a lot of attention.
Looking Ahead For Apollo Automobil
There was nothing subtle about Apollo Automobil’s ‘rebirth.’ The Apollo Intensa Emozione made sure of that. More than the publicity, it has also provided a solid platform for the carmaker to launch into the future. The naturally aspirated hypercar has already spawned another model dubbed the Apollo Evo.
The Evo is even more unhinged than the Intensa Emozione. It dials up an already extreme design language several notches higher up the insanity scale. Little is known about the Evo at this time, but you can expect it to be another limited-series track-only production.
However, beyond the carmaker’s track specials, there are bigger plans to expand Apollo Automobil’s presence, especially within the EV segment. In October 2022, the company unveiled a G2J EV prototype and development vehicle. This would be used as a platform to develop future production models, with the first Apollo electric vehicle expected sometime in 2024.
The company has no plans to ditch its fossil-powered creations just yet. However, it is clear that electric powertrains will play a prominent role in the company’s near future. Here’s hoping that this time, the company actually hangs around long enough to bring its ambitious plans to light.