Becoming profitable again is the number one priority.
Europe's new Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) program for testing vehicle emissions has caught many automakers by surprise. Among them, Bentley suffered a major setback when several of its new models were delayed for WLTP testing. In an interview with Auto Express, Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark said these delays have put the company in the red for the first time since 2009.
"Two problems have driven us into the red," he explained. "The [Continental GT] coupe was delayed nine months, it just wasn't ready for launch. But we'd paid for it – we'd paid all the money out, but not got any money back in. The second factor was, just when we thought we had the GT right and production flowing, WLTP comes along so we had further delays."
Bentley has decided to be completely upfront about its unpreparedness for WLTP. Now, the company should be well-positioned to make a profit in 2019. "Next year we have to be back in the black. The coupe will be flowing, the convertible is coming, Bentayga will be on full chat with the V8 and the hybrid, that's been delayed because of WLTP too, should be here in the first half of next year, maybe even first quarter."
Rumors have also been circulating about an all-electric model based on the Porsche Mission E platform, though these seem to have been premature. "We could've done something off Porsche's Mission E and it would've worked, but that's not what I want from Bentley," Hallmark said. "So we want to wait until the battery technology works for the types of cars that we build. In the meantime we'll go hybrid and performance hybrid. Mid-2020s is when we think the technology will meet the needs of the bigger cars we need to build."
We should start to see every Bentley model receive a plug-in hybrid version, leading up to the company's first EV by 2025. As you'd expect from Bentley, these plug-ins should be quite spectacular in terms of range. "A 30-mile range plug-in hybrid is very transitional. But a 60- or 70-mile hybrid starts to get interesting. We want to create a package that works and gives real customer benefit" said Hallmark.
Bentley will also introduce a number of special edition models in the coming years. "We don't do enough limited or special editions, slightly different body styles or limited run cars," Hallmark explained. "We've got to do more variation on what we have and we'll use Mulliner to do that." Perhaps we could even see interesting models like a shooting brake version of the Continental GT.
The company will also add "at least one nameplate in the future, and that will probably be as the transition between conventional products and battery electrical products." We aren't sure what bodystyle this new nameplate will arrive with but knowing Bentley, it should be lovely.