Bentley is seeking to cut almost a quarter of its workforce as it looks to restructure the entire business under an initiative called Beyond100.
The Crewe-based luxury car maker has written to each of its 4200 contracted employees with a voluntary release package based on age, salary and experience and it is looking for at least 1000 of them to come forward. Compulsory redundancies have not been ruled out after the initiative's completion.
The move is the first part of the firm’s Beyond100 plan, which has the ambition of Bentley becoming “a sector-defining, financially independent and recession-proof business”.
Bentley has been on an upward curve since CEO Adrian Hallmark joined in February 2018 from Jaguar Land Rover. He has overseen a €300 million (£268m) swing from the red into the black from 2018 to 2019, and on to a €54m (£48m) profit in the first quarter of 2020, a record performance for the 100-year-old company.
However, like all car makers, Bentley has been significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and it is not expecting to return to growth until 2022 at the earliest. Production was halted for seven weeks and each of those weeks cost the company £22m. At one point, two-thirds of the company’s workforce were on the government’s furlough scheme, and although production has now resumed at the Crewe plant, it is running at 50% capacity due to social-distancing requirements.
The job cuts are part of a much wider plan to restructure the Bentley business for the future. Called Beyond100, the new plan was originally going to be announced in March but was paused as the pandemic spread.
Now, Hallmark has outlined the detail of Beyond100, named after Bentley entering its second century. The plan is rooted in switching the brand to electrification and becoming an economically and environmentally sustainable business.
“I don’t see any risk to Bentley on electrification,” said Hallmark. “I embrace it.”
The first step of this is to offer a hybrid version of every Bentley by 2023, each positioned as a range-topping model. Hybrid customers will be encouraged to plug their cars in and run on electric power as much as possible to get them used to the benefits of zero-emissions driving, offering them an incentive in the process.
Hallmark is keen to follow the hybrids with the firm’s first fully electric car in 2025, or no later than early 2026, taking advantage of matured technology to allow the range, power and performance that Bentley owners will expect.
Bentley has made its factory carbon neutral and plans to make all of its cars zero-emissions by 2040 if not sooner, but now Hallmark has said Bentley will “invest in carbon-neutral materials that are ethically sourced and environmentally sustainable”.