Bentley CEO: Rich People Felt Bad About Showing Off, Causing Drop in Sales

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague

People who buy cars from brands like Bentley aren’t generally concerned with things like recessions and the opinions of the masses, but the automaker thinks its customers are buying fewer expensive cars because they feel bad about showing off. Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark said the company’s disappointing profit numbers from 2023 reflect its buyers’ “emotional sensitivity.”

The Drive reached out to Bentley, and found that the company’s customers have no problem affording its cars, but at least part of the sales slowdown is due to buyers’ “level of emotional sensitivity that slowed down demand.”

Of course, we can take this conversation in a few different directions. The first is that Bentley customers are experiencing a crisis of conscience, in which they feel their extravagant vehicle purchases are inappropriate in today’s less-than-comfortable economic situation.

The second is an assessment of the punitive interest rates many buyers face, which could make a multiple-hundred-thousand-dollar purchase even more expensive. However, regardless of the cause, the situation could cause significant issues if they’re not rectified.

Even so, the company has released recent sales numbers, boasting that, while overall sales were down, the models it sold were higher profit margin vehicles. So, while Bentley’s “every day” buyers might have had qualms about showing off their wealth, the top-end buyers with tens of thousands of dollars to burn on a W12 engine and champagne-level options don’t seem to have the same worries.

[Image: Bentley]

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Chris Teague
Chris Teague

Chris grew up in, under, and around cars, but took the long way around to becoming an automotive writer. After a career in technology consulting and a trip through business school, Chris began writing about the automotive industry as a way to reconnect with his passion and get behind the wheel of a new car every week. He focuses on taking complex industry stories and making them digestible by any reader. Just don’t expect him to stay away from high-mileage Porsches.

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4 of 35 comments
  • Waterloo Waterloo on Mar 21, 2024

    Could not tell sales are down by driving around Old Naples, FL. Bentlys are everywhere.

  • Ryan Knickerbocker Ryan Knickerbocker on Mar 21, 2024

    Never heard that one in regard to a drop in sales.

  • AMcA AMcA on Mar 21, 2024

    Sales are soft because their big seller, the Bentyga SUV, is a very ordinary looking car. It's quite nice, and perfectly competent, but it looks very ordinary from the outside.

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Mar 24, 2024

    Bentley was associated with near Rolls Royce quality, but less in-your-face styling. Now Roll Royce is owned by BMW, and Bentley is owned by VW, with the odor of Audi wafting over it. Sales are down because it's lost its cache.