Volkswagen Group to Bentley: Get Your Act Together, Now

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
volkswagen group to bentley get your act together now

It’s a brand showcased in countless music videos over the past two decades, but that doesn’t mean it features very highly in owner Volkswagen Group’s good books.

British ultra-luxury marque Bentley was just given a dressing down by its strict German guardians, told to shape up and start making money or face the consequences. The stern ultimatum came from the Piech and Porsche families, the auto group’s majority shareholders.

While the parents of the parent group didn’t spell out what would happen if Bentley doesn’t turn over a new leaf in the next one to two years, it’s looking like the brand could find itself in a basket on the front steps of an orphanage.

One to two years. That’s the timeline for a complete turnaround, according Hans Michel Piech.

Wolfgang Porsche, patriarch of the two clans, complained that Bentley, despite its flashiness, just isn’t pulling its weight. “The important thing is for every [VW Group] brand to generate a reasonable contribution margin,” he told Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper (as reported by Automotive News Europe). “That is not currently the case at Bentley, and we are not satisfied.”

Bentley, which has became a member of the VW family in 1998, recorded a $157 million loss during the first three quarters of 2018, down from a slight profit a year earlier.

It’s not all Bentley’s fault, however. The company’s new Continental GT was slow in making it to market due to transmission tinkering (the unit’s sourced from Porsche), while the depressed British pound, coupled with the fact that the UK-headquartered Bentley sources many components from Germany, hit the brand’s balance sheet hard in 2018. Another setback arose from Europe’s new WLTP test cycle, which Bentley didn’t properly prepare for. As a result, its vehicles ended up “stuck in the queue,” CEO Adrian Hallmark told Automotive News Europe in November.

Still, Hallmark claims he’s confident his company will make its parents happy. The exec predicts a return to profit in 2019. It had better. As Volkswagen Group continues its streamlining efforts, the automaker has expressed a strong willingness to sell off non-essential assets.

[Image: VW Group]

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2 of 29 comments
  • Thebanana Thebanana on Jan 11, 2019

    Kettle meet pot.

  • WallMeerkat WallMeerkat on Jan 14, 2019

    They used to be a gentleman's express, the caddish version of a Rolls Royce. Now they're just plain ugly, stupid googly headlights like an ugly early 2000s Subaru. The Bentayga looks like an ugly vulgar monster truck version of a London cab. Strange how things turn around, mid 90s where VW and BMW were fighting over Rolls Royce. VW got the plants and production lines, BMW got the name. VW had to run with Bentley. Mercedes in the sidelines licked their wounds and tried to make Maybach a thing. I wonder if Daimler-Benz will be circling Bentley again?

  • MRF 95 T-Bird As the former owner of an 87 Thunderbird with the 3.8 that was quite reliable and served me well for over a decade I can attest that this Turbo coupe is a fair deal. I used to frequent the TCCOA site for service and parts information and it’s filled with folks who know these cars. Parts for them are mostly right off the shelf Fox body items except for some of the Turbo coupe only items like the electronic suspension items. Just clean up and bring back to the original brushed aluminum finish those nice 16” wheels. Geez not every thing has to be “murdered out” dude bro culture.
  • SCE to AUX Obviously, yes. But they can't think about it for 5 years.A hybrid RAV4-based truck would be very competitive.But the real question is whether Toyota wants to undercut profits by selling such a vehicle. Mavericks aren't rare because Ford can't build them; they are rare because Ford makes more money on their other vehicles and therefore doesn't want to build Mavericks.
  • Redapple2 C2 is the best. C3 next. Then C7 (looking at you jimII).
  • Jeff S Vulpine--True the CAFE rules are for ICE.
  • Gray I grew up in the era of Panther and Fox platforms. If only they developed a good looking two door Conti. The four doors became a cult in their own right. And kept the 351W as a top line option.