By on January 10, 2019

2017 Bentley Bentayga rear

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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29 Comments on “Volkswagen Group to Bentley: Get Your Act Together, Now...”


  • avatar

    They need a new design direction. Starting to look kind of frumpy.

    • 0 avatar
      twotone

      What is a Bentley?

      Continental GT — rebadged VW Phaeton. No one wanted a $50 – $90K VW, so they put a Bentley body on it, tripled the price and every hip hop rap star wanted one.

      Bentayga — rebadged VW, Audi, Porsche, etc. WO must be rolling over in his grave with this one.

      Mulsanne — probably the closest thing to a “real” Bentley. However, $300 – $400k for an antique push-rod engine dating back to the 1950’s Packard.

      Nope, nothing to see here, move along.

      • 0 avatar
        Maxb49

        Bentley owner here. The 6.75 V8 is a must for many Bentley owners. We don’t see it as an “antique pushrod engine.” Bentley attempt some years back to replace the 6.75 V8 with the first generation 4.4 turbo V8 from BMW was met with enormous resistance that forced Bentley to restart production of the 6.75 V8. By the way, dual overhead cam technology is pretty “antiquated” too, having been prominently featured in Duesenbergs of the 1930s.

        Second, the 6.75 V8 is not a 1950s Packard or General Motors design (although this is a common misconception in the American automotive press).
        Rolls Royce designed this engine.

        The 6.75 V8 has more in common with heavy duty industrial engines than any other engine on the road. It features wet liners akin to those of a heavy duty diesel engine. It is impossible to wear out the old Rolls V8; that engine never needs to be bored out. Those cylinders pop out and get replaced with new cylinders. It is an extraordinary piece of engineering. Show me one production sedan that is designed like that.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    Is the Bentley in the picture just a rebadged Cayenne?

    (Maybe it SHOULD be?)

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Not so much rebadged, but it shares its MLB platform with several VW Group vehicles, including the Cayenne, Q7, Urus, and new Touareg. The only Bentley with a unique architecture is the Mulsanne, which is entirely hand-built in the company’s Crewe, England factory. And even it is chock-full of VW Group electronics.

      The other models get their bodies and powertrains built in Germany or Slovakia, or wherever, alongside their platform mates, and then are shipped to Bentley in the UK for paint, coachwork, and final assembly. In fact, when the Continental Flying Spur was first introduced, demand was so high that VW Group had to assemble complete units in its Germany-based Transparent Glass Factory, on the same line as the related Volkswagen Phaeton.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I don’t get it, Bentley must make a fortune on every car

  • avatar

    I don’t like the latest look with the large inboard headlights combined with the small outboard turn signal lights. It makes the cars look cross-eyed or something. The older models with two lights of equal size on each side of the grille looked much better.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I bet most of it is Bentley suffering from development costs. The new Bentayga couldn’t have been cheap to develop, although it should be profitable. Then there’s the redesigned 2019 Continental GT, which shares its MSB platform and electronics suite with the Porsche Panamera, but which also took many hundreds of millions to engineer and set up. What’s more, they discontinued the previous-generation Continental GT (which is the hardtop coupe) after 2017. There was no 2018 Continental GT, as they retooled for the new model. So all 2018 Continentals were the convertible GTC body style, from the outgoing generation. I’m sure that cut into sales, since not everyone wants a convertible.

    Of course, they recently showed the new Continental GTC as well, which cost money to develop and prepare for, and we’ve seen spy shots of the redesigned Flying Spur. That’s gonna cost money, too.

    Not to mention that the flagship Mulsanne will need to either be redesigned/replaced or put through another facelift/revamp cycle rather soon-ish. The Mulsanne’s heritage 6.75-liter twin-turbo V8—whose basic block architecture dates back to 50s Bentley/Rolls-Royce engineering—may soon fail to comply with Euro emissions regulations, at which point they’ll have to replace it with one of the VW Group corporate engines. There’ll be an expense in implementing that, too.

    Also, if Brexit goes into fruition, Bentley may be uniquely impacted. Currently, all of its cars—except the Mulsanne—get their bodies and powertrains assembled somewhere in Continental Europe, in one of VW Group’s corporate factories, and then everything is sent over to the UK for final assembly and outfitting. That process could become complicated if the UK ceases to be an EU member state.

    And then there’s the fact that Bentley faces stiffer competition these days. Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-Maybach punch above their weight these days, which means a modern Bentley needs to be even nicer. Aston Martin got a second wind and is making some very technologically current cars these days, as a result of its access to Mercedes-AMG electronics and powertrains, so you’re much more likely to see a DB11 compared to a Continental GT. And, even internally, versions of the Cayenne and the new Urus are within spitting range of the Bentayga, and could presumably steal customers.

    So, yeah, it’s probably just expensive and a bit dangerous to be Bentley right now.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I still find it crazy that BENTLEY can’t turn a profit. Every car has development costs, and a lot of the components in Bentleys are parts bin stuff. Platforms and engines being the biggies. So this is weird. With all the money and platform integration Bentley has with the VWAG group this feels like a very idle (and needlessly public) threat.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        That’s a really good point. Bentley has virtually none of its own IP, or its derived from corporate stuff. In order for Volkswagen to sell it, another brand would need to see immense value in the badge and buy it just for that (which is actually exactly what happened when BMW purchased Rolls-Royce, but that’s another story). VW Group would then need to either license its IP, corporate factories and expertise, or to coordinate with that prospective parent for at least the next decade as the parent slowly weaned Bentley off of VW Group stuff and onto its own engineering and assembly.

        And I don’t see that happening.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I agree I find it perplexing, there must be a lot of overhead running a small auto division.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      @Kyree

      Rolls is probably in a similar predicament.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Yeah, possibly. The Phantom and Cullinan are both brand-spanking new, and would have been majorly-expensive to develop. And the lesser vehicles, the Ghost, Wraith and Dawn, are on the old 5/6/7 Series architecture, and will need to be revamped or redesigned soon.

        Then again, as we saw with the Phantom—which was left essentially unchanged from 2003 all the way to 2012—Rolls-Royce isn’t afraid to let its cars age a bit, even when the BMW line grows steadily newer and more-advanced alongside it.

        • 0 avatar
          conundrum

          Wonderful sum up of the Bentley situation. I think it misses the Brexit screw-up, where many Conservative government MPs are fiddling while Rome burns.

          Every automaker with British factories Toyota, Ford, Peugeot, Nissan, Honda, BMW MINI and RR, JLR, Aston, have repeatedly warned the politicians that the sky will fall in with a hard Brexit. Insurance company head offices have already left, and so on. A hard Brexit is one with no pre-agreed trade and Customs rules with the EU. Genius Piech V 2.0 is indirectly doing the same thing, preparing the Brits for yanking the factory to Europe.

          Meanwhile, the incredibly conservative supposedly pro-business Tory government can’t get its act together. Germany runs the EU so the Brits had better arise from slumber and pay attention. It’s amateur hour.

          Rolls Royce announced today that 2018 was their best year ever with over 4100 sales worldwide. So that’s the bright spot.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      What’s up with the Speed 6 concept? It is only Bentley that appeals to me (even if I couldn’t afford so much as a door handle from the car). Made available it might have stolen a few Aston Martin sales.

  • avatar
    justathought

    I believe this is just a placeholder, they WILL be terminating and/or selling off the assests of Bentley and phasing out from the group by 2025. They just don’t want to say they didn’t “ring the bell” prior to it’s eventual demise. Likely to hear more news in May or July… my guess.

    It’s a brand that won’t escape the pressure that Herbert Diess will undoubtedly place on it and it will eventually cease to exist into the electrification of the group. The brand simply loses too much money on every vehicle, especially the Mulsanne and Flying Spur.

    The Bentayga will receive no face lifts (well, perhaps a minor one 2021/2022), and finish it’s 9 year run in 2025. The GT will also end on the heels of the Bentayga with zero facelifts.

    My prediction.

  • avatar
    CV Neuves

    The glamour from the days of having been an understatement Roller has long gone. Now their front design – the lighting – is just ugly as. Once they have come to terms with this, they may have a future.

  • avatar
    Null Set

    Perhaps I’ve just lived in LA for too long. I know this place is the Bottle City of Kandor of the automotive world. Cars that are crazy popular here can be duds everywhere else. But for all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve noticed the Bentley GT is *ubiquitous*. It’s literally everywhere. And you see brand new ones all the time. You’d think it was a Prius or a Tesla. I know that no one buys their sedans, but still. It’s not as though they don’t know how to sell cars here in LA.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Hmm.. I wonder if BMW would just pick them up and complete the circle?

  • avatar

    May be they are making too many models and makes sense to trim down to one or two. Like Apple did.

  • avatar
    thejohnnycanuck

    Is it time to pass the Grey Poupon?

  • avatar
    thebanana

    Kettle meet pot.

  • avatar
    WallMeerkat

    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?

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