With its Beyond 100 plan in place, a strategy for five new EVs in five years from 2025 and record annual sales in 2021, Bentley is on a roll. We spoke to chairman Adrian Hallmark during an Autocar Business seminar to find out more.
You’ve confirmed Bentley’s first EV will be built in Crewe. Was it ever not going to be?
“There was always a chance. But in this transition period between combustion-engine vehicles and battery-electric vehicles, there’s even more pressure than has been in the past to not invest in more infrastructure and to fully utilise capacities and facilities that are already there. [But] it’s our commitment to maximise the number of cars that we bring [to the UK]. It’s never guaranteed, but I’m delighted that we’ve convinced the shareholders to stick with us.”
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The announcement was part of a wider £2.5bn investment. Where’s the money coming from and what does it buy?
“The most important thing for us is all of that investment comes from our own cashflow. We won’t borrow and we won’t go into deficit to fund this. We will do it from our own cashflow and reserves.
“In terms of where it goes, let’s be honest: cars cost a lot more to develop than infrastructure. So I would estimate that about 15-20% of that will go into the site. We’ve already spent a lot to get some of the administrative and test facilities completely rebuilt. But the rest, 80% or so, is in the product. And each car, as we know, is a significant cost. It’s a four- to five-year development programme.”
How important is Crewe to Bentley?
“How important is Bentley to Crewe as well? Seventy-five years we’ve been here. We have 4500 people who are at the peak of the skills in our industry and better than most suppliers out there, because we’ve kept wood, leather and trim as a core competence, and that will continue for the future. If we’re going to keep leadership in that space, those skills can’t be obtained overnight. And we see a great advantage of that being here.
“But it’s not just that. If you’re investing the kind of money that our customers do in buying a Bentley, it has to be authentic. It has to come from Bentley. So while we’re always in competition for certain parts of the production process with Volkswagen Group facilities, we will always fight to have the maximum here.