Bentley has been on a steady decline since the past five years. To reverse the alarming pattern, Volkswagen AG stole Jaguar’s head of global strategy head, Adrian Hallmark. Or we can say reacquired him since Hallmark was, in fact, Bentley’s board member in charge of sales and marketing between 1999 and 2005.
Adrian Hallmark was the driving force behind bringing the Continental GT to life. The car went ahead to turn Bentley’s fortunes around with its blend of brash power and supreme composure. Hallmark is back at Crewe, saddled with the duty of reshaping Bentley financial and sales-wise, and position it for better future growth. This time, his agenda is clear. “I’ll tell you what we won’t be building,” he said, “and that’s sports cars.”
The strategy makes sense considering that this segment has not yet fully recovered from the recession. People who have the sort of money to afford a Bentley performance car are very few in number and their ages go up every year, further removing them from the sports car fascination. Younger buyers like athletes and entertainers who could afford and want such cars are also discouraged from owning them due to contractual injury clauses, and sometimes in an effort to avoid the paparazzi. One of the world’s biggest automotive markets, China, has a general tendency to prefer limousines and SUVs over traditional sedans and saloons. This is where Hallmark believes the company has not taken advantage.
Sports cars are not the only point of concern for the British automaker. A German news daily ‘Handelsblatt’ recently ran an article on why Bentley’s fortunes are ailing, and it pointed out a lot of issues. An independent German study proclaimed that Ferrari makes $80,000 on every car it sells, while Porsche earns just under $19,000 up from almost $17,000 in 2017. Bentley, on the other hand, loses a little over $19,000 behind every car that leaves the dealership. It posted an operating loss of $92 million in the first six months of 2018, which is not surprising since the company’s coffers have been steadily shrinking from as back as 2014. However, the timeline of losses coincides with Bentley’s $1.1 billion investment in electric technology, with the company citing it as a significant part of its profitability hit.
The Bentayga is not raking in handsome numbers in Europe, sales are down even more in the U.S. and Bentley is seeing a decline of almost 10% in sales year-on-year globally. It is indeed a difficult situation for Crewe as along with suffering from falling sales and climbing losses, it has to meet its own deadline of electrifying its entire range by 2025. Bentley wants to be able to sell 15,000 to 20,000 cars globally. So far, the best it has managed is 11,300 in the past five years.
It will be interesting to see how Adrian Hallmark takes the brand forward without sports cars, especially since these are the cars that were instrumental in bringing Bentley all the way to its current legacy.