Bentley model strategy to focus on grand tourers and SUVs

by Jim Holder, Autocar UK 11 Apr 2019


Bentley Continental GT

Bentley will finalise its new model strategy by this summer, with a renewed focus on its credentials as a maker of grand touring vehicles and SUVs, and no ‘pure sports cars’. 

Werner Tietz, Bentley’s board member in charge of engineering, has revealed that the company has decided not to pursue any of the themes explored by the EXP 10 Speed 6 sports car or electric EXP 12 Speed 6e roadster concepts shown by its former management. 

Instead, the Crewe firm, now led by Briton Adrian Hallmark, will look to expand its GT lineup. “The concept positioning was not something that fits with our future strategy now,” said Tietz. “Pure sports cars are not a topic for us now. 

“Since joining, our first move has been to work on the current range and to set a better cadence for launching products at spaced intervals. Now we are looking at what future possibilities there are.” 

Tietz declined to elaborate on specifics but said any new products would need to broaden the firm’s spectrum of buyers, rather than sell additional cars to them. 

“The first thing we want to be sure of is that we have a GT car in every segment, and it is not certain if we are there now,” he added. 

“There is more potential in that segment, I think. Bentley can offer something unique, particularly around delivering cars with a sporting edge that can, at the push of a button, transform into a luxury, refined car.

“There is some potential when you look at SUVs too, especially around a car larger than the Bentayga if you consider its value to the Chinese and American markets. So, yes, that is one opportunity we are exploring. Bigger cars are an interesting avenue for Bentley – for now, we are not thinking about doing anything smaller, as that’s not what we’re about.” 

Reports had suggested that Tietz was considering a smaller, battery-electric crossover as an urban-focused model, but he said: “We are investigating several concepts for electrification, but for now the promise is that we will offer a plug-in version of every car we have on sale today by 2025. Our research suggests that is what customers want now. 

“An electric, city-focused car is one idea we are thinking about, it’s true. But it is just a concept in our minds. But would an electric car have to be a new car line or a successor to something we already have? What kind of range does an urban car need to have? There are so many directions we need to consider rather than just saying ‘we will make an electric car’.” 

Tietz added: “It is by no means certain that battery-electric is the right way to go. One point we see is that some cars in our line-up – the Bentayga, for instance – is used for towing horseboxes and boats. With the current EV technology, that wouldn’t work. 

“So we are looking for a step in technology that doubles battery capability. We have looked at solid-state batteries for nearly five years now – they should be able to achieve these goals, but they are not yet ready. If solid-state achieves its goals, then it becomes interesting – but only then. 

“That’s why we are also evaluating fuel cell technology constantly, even if it is probably 10 years away from reaching a point that it can be practical, and also seeing what possibilities there are with the development of synthetic fuel.”

Tietz highlighted the potential for synthetic fuels to be made using clean energy, such as wind power, as being especially appealing. 

“The evidence is that these fuels could be CO2 neutral, and that raises interesting possibilities,” he said. “We see the airline industry looking into this quite seriously – the electric plane doesn’t look like becoming a large-scale reality soon – and that could help us open up possibilities. We have open minds.” 

Tietz said Bentley would give clues to its future direction at events coinciding with its 100th-anniversary celebrations in July.