A classic example of tradition versus future stability.
Before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Bentley managed to achieve what some thought impossible. Following a painful financial loss of 55 million euros in 2018, Bentley's parent company, VW Group, gave the ultra-luxury British brand an ultimatum: return to profitability within one or two years or face the consequences. A sale to another company, likely from China, was looking possible. But Bentley proved the VW Group board wrong, exceeding its sales expectations by making painful workforce cuts and production line improvements.
Today, Bentley is in such good overall shape that it's expected to go under the direct control of Audi in order to receive the best new technologies as soon as possible.
Although Bentley itself is now safe, Bloomberg reports there's another troubling decision that will soon be made. Based in Crewe, England, for the past 80 years, Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark recently admitted its future there is uncertain. In fact, its future in England in general is in doubt. Blame Brexit.
The UK and the European Union are still negotiating a trade deal before the Brexit transition period ends on December 31, 2020, but unless this hopeful deal works somehow in Bentley's favor, it may have no choice but to move production operations to the EU mainland. The added taxes and duties of importing vehicle components from the EU to the UK is not something Bentley can accept.
"It doesn't risk the existence of the company, it doesn't risk our establishment in the UK, but it does definitely dent our profitability," Hallmark said. "Every time we launch a product - even though we're a 100-year-old company based in Crewe for over 80 years - we have to fight to keep the products in Crewe. And our competitiveness, our flexibility in terms of cost structure and our relationship with our colleagues and workforce, these are key factors."
Hallmark did confirm existing models, such as the Bentley Bentayga and Continental GT, will continue to be built in the UK, but not so for future models, all of which will be electrified. Bentley won't be able to decide its Crewe-based future until those negotiations are concluded, hopefully with a positive result.