One hundred years ago this Friday, Jan. 18, Walter Bentley founded Bentley Motors. Thus began eight decades of peaks and valleys for the legendary British ultraluxury brand — until Volkswagen Group acquired Bentley 20 years ago and appeared to set a standard for how to revitalize a beloved old marque. But they don't seem to be in a celebratory mood up in Crewe, England, as VW Group's main shareholders, the Piech and Porsche families, have given Bentley an ultimatum to become profitable within two years.
Happy birthday! Now make some money
"It can only be one to two years," said Hans Michel Piech, another family spokesman, asserting that Bentley must complete its turnaround within that period.
The two VW Group supervisory board members did not say what would happen if Bentley fails to comply.
Bentley lost €137 million ($157 million) in the first nine months of 2018, compared with a small profit in the same period in 2017. A slow ramp-up of the new-generation Continental GT and exchange rate problems after the British pound fell following the U.K.'s vote to leave the European Union were among reasons for the loss. Bentley sources many components from continental Europe.
The rollout of the Continental was delayed to get the right calibration for its Porsche gearbox and to finesse the details, CEO Adrian Hallmark told Automotive News Europe in November. Bentley also was too slow to ready its cars for Europe's new Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure, he said. Bentley lost around 300 to 400 Bentayga SUV sales in 2018 because of the delays in certifying vehicles, Hallmark said.
Still, Hallmark said Bentley could post a full-year profit in 2019, which would be a nice way to mark the centenary.
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