By coincidence, both companies chose yesterday — and locations in Central London — to reveal their results for 2013. Such meetings provide unmissable opportunities to meet the chief executives in their most expansive mood, which means you hear lots of fascinating stuff about achievements of the past and plans for the future.
The day started with a trip to the deeply tasteful Rosewood Hotel in High Holborn for breakfast with about 20 other hacks, followed by a speech-plus-Q&A at 9am sharp by Dr Wolfgang Schreiber, the CEO.
Bentley’s message is impressive (record sales; a further 50 per cent expansion planned following the 2016 launch of the much-ballyhooed SUV) and Schreiber was in urbane and amusing form, having relaxed into the job to the extent that — if the body language of his accompanying PR director was anything to go by — he might have been a shade too helpful with our questions.
One source of amusement was his answer to my enquiry whether Bentley would show another concept of its SUV before launch, given that they had learned plenty from their first, much-panned version shown in Geneva two years ago, and had since redesigned it. “The feedback was fantastic, and we did learn a lot,” agreed Schreiber with a grin, “but we learned enough.” The message was clear: the next time we see the Bentley soft-roader it’ll be in production.
It’s about three-quarters of a mile on foot from Holborn to Berkeley Square and Rolls-Royce's rival shindig: CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös was holding court for hacks and assorted televisual types in the dealership near the corner of Bruton Street.
The Rolls guys hadn’t known until the last minute about the prior Bentley event, and might have been pushed a bit onto the back foot had it not been for the bullish nature of their own message: Müller-Ötvös revealed record sales for the fourth year in a row, another round of hirings at Goodwood, a slightly more powerful limited-edition of the Ghost, plus fascinating and ongoing consideration (but absolutely no sign-off) on what a new Rolls SUV would be like.
Interestingly, having heard Bentley's revelations, Müller-Ötvös had nothing but praise for what Crewe was achieving, although he did make the point that while they were now into “mass market”, Rolls-Royce remained at the pinnacle of super-luxury, and its contract with its customers would always include the word “rarity”.
By 3pm I was sated, having sat in corners in various West End coffee shops with my iPad, writing up the news elements of what I’d learned. I also felt the most profound feeling of elation at the performance of these two wonderful companies, still British in the important ways, which have never had such able and far-sighted management, such easy access to technical support and investment, such a profusion of able staff — and thus such a plethora of bold and desirable new models.
They may be on different paths now, but for both this is truly the golden age.