A Partner Can Get You a Long WayFri, 09/01/2017 - 12:00
Constant evolution is the key to success, now more than ever. With shorter average development cycles of 24 months and new technology advances regularly hitting the industry, companies must be prepared to invest in R&D, engineering and services to remain competitive. Bentley found the perfect patron in the Volkswagen Group back in 1998 and the group continues to inject resources to ensure the brand’s constant evolution and technological growth.
At the turn of the century, Bentley sold approximately 2,000 vehicles per year. After Volkswagen’s involvement and following an investment of US$2 billion in Bentley’s plant in Crewe, England, the company consistently grew until it surpassed the 10,000-car mark for the first time in 2009. In 2016, Bentley sold over 11,000 vehicles and according to Mario Olea, Director General of Bentley de México, the forecast for 2017 is to reach sales of 13,000 units. Bentley will celebrate its centenary in 2019 but in Mexico, it commemorated its 10th anniversary in 2016.
In its 10 years in Mexico, Bentley has sold 150 units, maintaining stable sales numbers of between 15 and 20 vehicles throughout the years. “In Latin America, Bentley commercializes around 25 vehicles per year, making Mexico the biggest market by far,” says Olea. “Big growth opportunities in the region are undeniable so by 2022, we might be looking at sales of 100 vehicles per year.” The company has plans to grow in Mexico and although it will still be part of the Volkswagen Group, Olea says Bentley will be more autonomous in its operations. “We aim to increase sales to 20-25 vehicles per year by the end of 2017, maintaining stable results in the coming years.” Pushing Bentley to increase its sales was one of Volkswagen’s goals after acquiring the company. One of its main strategies was to ditch the stigma that related Bentley with older people. Today, the average age of its clients is between 30 and 45, according to Olea, but to manage that, the company had to grow in terms of technology and performance.
“Bentley offers the best of both worlds,” says Olea. “Since its conception, the brand wanted clients to enjoy a luxurious vehicle with a sports car’s performance under the hood.”
This is no easy feat considering that the Continental and Mulsanne models weigh over 2 tons on average. Thanks to the incorporation of lightweight components in the cars’ internal structure and engine technology development however, the brand can offer clients a true sportscar feel. The company has a long racing history, including participating in the 24 hour Le Mans race, which helped it perfect its engine technology. Today’s Bentley models can go from 0 to 100km/h in just 4.1 seconds, operating with either of two engine configurations, V8 or W12. Olea says that the W12 configuration is the most in-demand by clients, as it can deliver between 582 and 640hp.
Impressive credentials have not stopped the company from improving its existing lineup. In 2015, Bentley took its range a step further, presenting its first SUV at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The Bentayga, built on Volkswagen’s MLP platform, became a cornerstone of the company’s positive expectations and is currently the brand’s most popular model. “The Bentayga has helped us approach new client segments, including women who view Bentley’s other models as too masculine,” says Olea. “Being an SUV, it has advantages in Mexico on handling the difficult conditions drivers encounter on city roads and it offers an off-road performance that outshines other Bentley models.” The company is also riding the electrification wave and presented an electric concept at the 87th Geneva Auto Show called the EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept. Bentley is analyzing hybrid motorizations and according to Olea, it has leaned on much of Volkswagen’s knowledge to evolve with this trend.
With modernization, however, comes the risk of losing originality. That is why Bentley has remained cautious in maintaining its DNA which, in Olea’s words, comes down to just one thing: perfection. “We will never give up our artisanal approach,” he says. Even so, the company is committed to technological improvement when automation is necessary. The company keeps investing in new manufacturing technology and equipment and Olea says production of the Bentayga has sped up to take only 150 hours, thanks to advances in robotics and automated operations. It seems progress cannot be stopped.