This year Bentley is on course - once again - to make more cars in Crewe than it ever has before. It’s a nice headline that hides a story, however, because much of that growth is driven by the arrival - and smash-hit success - of the Bentley Bentayga.
Elsewhere, business is hard. Chinese authorities continue to clamp down on spending on luxury goods, just last month adding a 10% tax to goods over a certain value at one day’s notice. The super rich are resilient to such things, of course, but when a government frowns on extroverted spending, it is bound to have a wider impact.
Meanwhile, the US and Europe are in a state of flux, and the Middle Eastern oil states are in limbo while the price of oil stays low. It is not an easy time to be trying to selling luxury cars.
That’s why Wolfgang Durheimer and the team at Bentley deserve so much credit for the Bentayga. There have been few cars as controversial in recent years, but they drove on with their vision and, my goodness, how they and the staff at Bentley must be thanking the forward vision of launching it now.
By adding an SUV line they have broadened their customer base - around half of buyers are from other brands, the vast majority stepping out of Range Rovers - and diversified their offering. As national situations change or trends move, Bentley is better placed than ever to react.
Success also breeds success, of course. Bentley has invested heavily in new facilities in Crewe and has ambitious plans to do more. As each new model proves profitable, so the paymasters in Wolfsburg will release funds for new investment and new model lines. There is no shortage of ideas from Durheimer and co, but today’s news about an extended Bentayga line seems logical and of most immediate concern alongside replacing today’s models.
Controversial the Bentayga may be, but as rivals pile in behind Bentley with similar strategies, it becomes less controversial and more logical every day. Just as we look at the Porsche Cayenne as driving funding for Porsche’s sublime sports cars now, the day is surely coming when we will hail the Bentayga for driving a vibrant, exciting Bentley in to the future.