Former Porsche R&D boss takes over the reins at Bentley and Bugatti. He tells us his vision

Wolfgang Dürheimer assumed control of Bentley and Bugatti last week, moving from his role as head of R&D at Porsche. We spoke to him about his new position and how he can help to integrate Bentley more fully into the Volkswagen Group.

Why do you think you got the job?

If you want to know the exact details and reasons, you’ll need to ask Dr Winterkorn. But from my perspective, I think it’s recognition of the achievements in the past.

During my time at Porsche, we developed the Cayenne, we doubled the size of the company, opened up new markets, had a big sales offensive, widened our customer base, developed the Panamera, had this successful RS Spyder racing project. We kept the 911 in a premium position worldwide, plus Boxster and Cayman are successful.

You’ve obviously got good knowledge of Porsche products, too, which should help with component sharing with Bentley…Well, nobody knows as well as I do the abilities and potential of Weissach. And sports car ownership will be positioned in Weissach in the future, so it is most likely that we will try to gain efficiency and synergies in working together very closely.

I think Bentley, Bugatti and Porsche can have, in certain aspects, a bright future together. There will be a lot of information transfer. Bentley has recognition of being the leader, in the whole VW Group, in woods and leathers. If you look at how they treat these materials, I think the other brands can learn from them. But maybe in things like hybrid technology, I think Porsche can provide some information and it will be to the benefit of everybody.

The hybrid tech is an interesting one, because it’s perceived as ‘cutting edge’, whereas Bentley’s reputation is of a very traditional brand. Does it need modernising?No, I don’t think it’s necessary to make it more modern. As I understand it so far, the reason for customers to buy Bentleys is the tradition, the craftsmanship, the looks, the statement.

But all these people who buy these kinds of cars are achievers in life, leaders in the economy, and they need a hassle-free life in terms of social acceptance. For this reason, I think some technologies might be added in future to carry on this tradition. I mean, it’s the question: to carry on the flag, not too aggressively, but constantly.

Do you think you already have a good grasp of what makes a British luxury car?I need to learn about this. I drove a car during Christmas time, for starters.

Which one?It was a Continental Supersports. My personal time for getting from the office to my home town has not been beaten with a Porsche up to now, so the car is really fast, interesting and nice to drive.

You’re leaving Porsche at an interesting stage, with the 918 Hybrid and the Cajun on the horizon — and moving to Crewe. Do you have any regrets?

Well, I am leaving with a tear in my eye from Porsche, because I really appreciate the team. It’s been a sensational time for me here over the past 11 years. I’ve got lots of friends at Porsche, and I think I am an accepted team member.

But at the same time, it’s my goal to reach this stage again at Bentley and Bugatti — to be a good member of the team and to give the necessary impulses to bring the company into a bright future. I’m looking forward to it.

John McIlroy

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