Bentley has a tremendous history of building lustworthy luxury cars most people could only dream of owning, and doing so in incredibly small numbers. But even ultra-low-volume carmakers have to face the reality that the future of cars is electric. With a slate of new initiatives, Bentley is showing it’s on the front foot heading toward electrification, not stuck in the past.
The company is accelerating its transition to an all-EV lineup, committing to add a new EV model each year starting in 2025, leading to a goal of being 100% electric by 2030. This is beyond Bentley’s original commitment to dropping all gas-only engines from its lineup (moving to PHEVs) by 2025. That’s a swift transition, particularly for a company with a 100-plus year history.
It’s all part of Bentley’s “Beyond 100” plan, which looks to a future (past its 100th year — get it?) where the company operates completely sustainably and carbon-neutral, from its business operations down to the individual vehicles it produces.
The new EV road map announcement comes alongside new developments on the manufacturing front, where Bentley is making a massive $3.4 billion investment in its Crewe, England, headquarters. This is where the first all-electric Bentley will be designed and produced, again in the most sustainable way possible. Adrian Hallmark, Chairman and CEO of Bentley Motors, said:
“Beyond 100 is the boldest plan in Bentley’s illustrious history, and in the luxury segment. It’s an ambitious and credible road map to carbon neutrality of our total business system, including the shift to 100% BEV in just eight years. Our aim is to become the benchmark not just for luxury cars or sustainable credentials, but the entire scope of our operations. Securing production of our first BEV in Crewe is a milestone moment for Bentley, and the U.K., as we plan for a long-term sustainable future in Crewe.”
While a hybrid or all-electric drivetrain may seem antithetical to the Bentley experience, which is traditionally built on the beauty of its huge 8- and 12-cylinder engines, it’s clear that consumer preference is shifting even for the least price-conscious buyers. Bentley started leaning toward electrification with the Bentayga PHEV in 2020, and followed it up with the Flying Spur PHEV for 2022. Even with gas-only trims offered for each of its models, Bentley says it already expects 20% of its 2022 sales to be PHEVs.
The assumption that a luxury car has to be an inefficient gas-guzzler is being flipped on its head.
Luxury cars have a (well-deserved) reputation for being all about excess, environment be damned. In service of luxury, we’ve moved to bigger, faster, more opulent vehicles that simply held fuel efficiency in very low regard. That notion is changing dramatically across the industry — being efficient, if not entirely electric, is actually luxurious in its own right. (Although the hordes of Mercedes AMG G63 SUVs plowing around LA and New York at 14 MPG would disagree, I suppose).
Now this transition to all-electric is a bit easier for a company like Bentley that sells a very small number of cars (fewer than 15,000 in 2021) across just three models — the Continental GT, Flying Spur, and Bentayga — but the speed at which this shift is happening is still laudable. To go from a fleet average fuel economy of around 15 MPG to all electric less than a decade later is trend-setting. Bentley could have easily continued to make gas-powered vehicles for considerably longer, fitting under some regulations thanks to its low volume — so it’s ever more intriguing to see this strategy.
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