Stop me if you’ve already heard this story: 2021 was a strong year for automakers. And it was an even better one for those higher-end brands, including English luxury automaker Bentley Motors (VWAGY).
Bentley’s global sales jumped 31%, to a record 14,659 units in 2021. But similar to its competitors, Bentley can’t rest on its laurels. It needs to innovate as customers and manufacturers ride the electric tidal wave.
The big news out of Bentley is that it has committed nearly $3.5 billion to convert its factory in Crewe, England, to make electric vehicles (EV), the first of which will be out in 2025.
“[The] investment that we've committed is for both transformation of this 75-year-old site as well as full transformation of five products over five years from combustion engine toward a full battery electric vehicle,” Bentley Motors CEO Adrian Hallmark told Yahoo Finance. “It's probably the most bold, radical plan that the company has ever had since the company was started.”
Hallmark was tight-lipped on details surrounding its first EV, other than saying it will be a Bentley through and through from a craftsmanship, materials, and performance point of view, and that it was a “game-changer” in the making.
While it may seem that Bentley is "skating to where the puck is going" (à la hockey great Wayne Gretzky), it turns out data and customer interest is also informing those changes, in a surprising way.
“Four years ago, we looked at research in our customer world, both existing buyers, but also people that buy other luxury vehicles of the same price bracket, and around 30% of people four years ago in our segment said that they were thinking of an electric car in the next five years,” he said.
But the kicker is what the percentage is now. “That figure has now doubled to more than 60% of luxury buyers and intenders wanting to seek an electric car in the next five years,” Hallmark said, noting that the 2025 release or its first EV, and the 2030 deadline for going full EV with all its cars, is catching the “inflection point” at the right time.
Let’s not forget that Bentley’s arch-rival Rolls-Royce (BMWYY) is planning to go all EV by 2030 too. And that’s on top of what Italian ultra performance brands Ferrari (RACE) and Lamborghini (VWAGY) are up to as well.
“We're not a high-performance car company with loud exhaust systems, we're not a pure luxury business in the super luxury segment. Our customers drive our cars pretty much every day of the week,” Hallmark said.
It’s this niche within this market — where luxury meets everyday use — that Bentley thinks will be most successful in when the EV future is finally here.
“When you combine [everyday drivability] with a level of quality that we achieve — and I don't just mean aesthetic quality, but I mean function of quality in the market, which is on par with the best of the premium brands, which is rare for a luxury car company — I think we're a unique proposition,” he says.
“And electrification fits perfectly with what Bentley stands for— effortless acceleration, long distance touring capability, silence when you want it, and fun when you need it.”