Bentley Sells 5600 Cars. Now What?

Justin Berkowitz
by Justin Berkowitz

Reuters reports that Bentley sold 5600 vehicles for the first half of 2007. That's not half bad, considering the company sold 1017 vehicles in all of 2003. As The Continental GT and Continental Flying Spur account for nearly all the sales, VW's handling of the Bentley brand can now be officially labeled bloody brilliant. As VW flounders and Audi fights tooth and nail just to hear BMW say "We don't consider Audi a competitor," Bentley has hit (if not created) the low six figure sweet spot, just above Mercedes and BMW. The Conti's priced high enough to keep out the luxury car riff-raff, but low enough so that it doesn't scare away all the CEOs and Managing Partners (as would a Rolls-Royce or Maybach.) Where does Bentley go from here? That's a question that the Bentley brand, which sold the same car for the 20 years before VW bought it, will have real trouble answering.

Justin Berkowitz
Justin Berkowitz

Immensely bored law student. I've also got 3 dogs.

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  • VLAD VLAD on Jul 12, 2007

    Justin VW is not "floundering". They had record sales worldwide for the first 6 months of 07 with over 3 million vehicles.

  • Justin Berkowitz Justin Berkowitz on Jul 12, 2007

    I meant that VW is floundering in terms of its product strategy, particularly in the U.S. and Europe (as the article is about Bentley, I'm talking mainly about the markets in which Bentley is active). Yes, VW did have record sales worldwide, but that is largely due to growth in China and Brazil. I don’t mean to say that this doesn’t count - it certainly does - but VW is doing poorly in Europe and the U.S. compared to previous years (especially the U.S.). In particular, Golf V assembly time and costs are about twice what they could be and VW has been rushing to get the MkVI to market. They have no credible supermini offering in Europe as the Lupo is dead and the Fox is ages behind newer cars like the Fiat 500 and Panda, Renault Modus, and Citroen C1/Toyota Aygo. As for the U.S., see my editorial from a few months ago. SEAT is not doing well and some have discussed shuttering the brand entirely. Really the only bright spot for the VW group in Europe is the Skoda brand.

  • Terry Parkhurst Terry Parkhurst on Jul 12, 2007

    It would be nice if Bentley could offer a smaller car, a true two-seater, sort of a 21st century edition of the old "blower Bentleys" that used to race at LeMans in the late twenties and early thirties in the last century. Yes, the hip-hop moguls and NBA boys are driving Bentleys too; but ultimately, it's about heritage, even when it's owned by a German firm - maybe more so then, as a way of differentiating itself from Rolls-Royce. In 1997, I talked to the late Gary Ellerman, editor of the Ellerman Report (age 87 at that time) which covered Rolls-Royce and Bentleys. This was when his magazine was acquired by a publishing group that started a magazine called Sterling, designed to compete with the Robb Report, and folded after one issue. (Yes, I wrote for Sterling and that would make up one entire class session, if I ever teach a class on freelance writing.) He'd grown up with them and they were like a '55-to-'57 Chevrolet is to a Baby Boomer. So there's the True Believers of the marque(s) and Bentley should cater to them and let the rest follow along.

  • Pch101 Pch101 on Jul 13, 2007

    With Bentley and Lambo, VAG has accomplished one of the greatest feats of platform sharing in the business. After all of these months of well-deserved Big 2.8 bashing and general skepticism, we have finally found something worthy of applause. VAG has successfully allocated R&D that was originally invested into building Audis, and converted it into the creation of high-margin exotics that generate perhaps twice the revenue and enjoy minimal competition, all while raising the value of all of the brands in question. This is a fantastic accomplishment, it really is. If I worked at VAG, I'd find the guys who were responsible for this fantastic triumph and lavish them with promotions, before somebody at one of my smart competitors hires them away from me.