The history of luxury car manufacturer, Bentley, is firmly located in the UK despite being owned by German-based Volkswagen since 1998. All Bentleys are designed, engineered and manufactured in Crewe, Cheshire, so Bentley’s announcement yesterday that global sales were up 37%, year on year, was a positive indicator of the state of a buoyant UK automotive sector.
Mike Hawes, a spokesperson for Bentley, discusses the company’s sales success in China and how it hopes to continue this growth.
TM: Positive performance in the BRIC markets – where and how do you hope to improve on this in 2012?
MH: We expect to continue our growth in 2012. New models such as the Continental V8 should help us attract new customers in existing and growing markets, including the BRICs. We will also continue to invest in our dealer network in these countries.
In Russia, for instance, we only have retail outlets in Moscow and St Petersburg so there is scope to expand. China will continue to be one of our most important global markets and, in the future, we are confident other BRIC markets such as Brazil and India, where we have only a small presence at the moment, will take an increasing interest in the Bentley brand.
TM: China has been a big source of success – who in China is buying Bentley and how have they made their money?
MH: Chinese customers are no different from Bentley customers around the world; they respect the quality, craftsmanship, luxury and performance of Bentley. Our Chinese customers tend to be younger than Bentley customers in western markets, but are similar in that they may have made their wealth from a diverse range of businesses.
TM: With growth slowing in the UK, will production move elsewhere in order to be closer to the new customers?
MH: We remain committed to designing, engineering and building our cars in Crewe. Our volumes remain small but we depend very heavily on the skills and craftsmanship as well as the engineering excellence of our UK workforce. Many of them have honed their skills over decades and pass down that knowledge to subsequent generations of Bentley Associates, many of whom enter the company as apprentices. It would be very difficult to replicate these skills elsewhere.
TM: Is there going to be any new investment to help meet growing demand?
MH: We are continuing to invest in new models which we believe will attract new customers to the Bentley brand. The new Continental V8 – due to be launched next week in Geneva – is one such example but we have other equally exciting models in the pipeline. We have continued to invest in the Crewe site since Volkswagen AG purchased the Company in 1998 so that we now have a modern manufacturing facility with flexibility to meet increasing demand.