Bentley's Future Perfect

Bloomberg Businessweek|July 22, 2019

Bentley's Future Perfect

As it celebrates 100 years of making cars, the British automaker tries to overcome the trauma of the last few.

Brett Berk
“Birthdays are a time for reflection, but they’re also a time for planning forward,” says John Paul Gregory, head of exterior design for Bentley Motors Ltd. “To figure out what type of person—or brand—you want to be.”

To celebrate its centenary, on July 10 the exclusive British brand unveiled a concept car, the EXP 100 GT. Two feet longer than a Cadillac Escalade but featuring only two doors, the battery-powered grand tourer boasts sustainably sourced paint and wood. And everything from the extensive battery range to the high-tech window glass is meant to showcase the company’s plan for top-tier motoring in 2035. That vision includes self-driving technology that can still provide a visceral connection to the road and retains the joy of driving.

Sadly, of late the brand’s own ride has been rather not joyful. “The 100-year anniversary comes at a good time, because the 99th year of the company was probably the worst year in our history,” says Adrian Hallmark, who was appointed Bentley’s chief executive officer in February 2018.

He refers to a series of seemingly avoidable disasters that began with the early 2017 unveiling of the third- generation, all-new Continental GT. Replacing the brand’s best-selling line, the $200,000-plus coupe and convertible were meant to roll out globally for the 2018 model year. That didn’t happen.

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July 22, 2019