Boss Bentley: The order book is overflowing, the rich still have pots of money!

Brand of success: Bentley CEO Adrian Holmark at the plant in Crewe, which employs 4,000 employees

The boss of carmaker Bentley is struggling to find words to describe the company’s recent success. While the war is raging in Ukraine and the world economy is fluctuating on the brink, Adrian Holmark says, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Despite the cost of living crisis and the impact of rapid inflation, Bentley continues to break records in the luxury luxury brand market, which seems resilient to the recession.

The manufacturer sells handmade cars from SUVs priced at more than £ 150,000, which have become a staple for wealthy families, to sedans clad in Scottish tweed that can develop speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour.

Last year, it grossed £ 335 million from selling 14,659 cars worldwide. This was followed by his best quarter of the year.

Despite the success, industry veteran Holmark, 59, is all too aware of how fast things are changing. “Imagine you’re in the strongest boom you’ve ever been in, but have to behave as if you’re in the biggest recession. That’s the feeling, ”he says.

Every month this year, it feels like it has brought a new potentially devastating shock, he says – the war in Ukraine, the Chinese blockade – that makes him worry that demand is about to decline.

But this has not yet happened. But he says unpredictable times call for a more agile approach. “We have to think existentially every time we do something. The minute you relax and think you’ve done it, you’re dead. ”

Bentley was helped by the courage of Ukrainian breeders who continued production lines to make cables for cars until the country unfolded a conflict. It also had a healthy stock buffer, which meant it didn’t run out of needed parts, as other manufacturers tried in vain to deliver products and parts to where they were needed.

Despite the prospect of an approaching recession, Holmark is confident that the customer base will continue to grow and the wealthy will still want to get their hands on his cars. “We’re not pessimistic about the future,” he said from a fancy Bentley showroom in Crewe, Cheshire.

“We are still seeing strong signs of demand, and the book of orders is strong. People with great wealth still have a lot of wealth in recession. There is still a lot of money around. ”

It was a formidable revival for Bentley after Hallmark returned to the company in 2018, leaving 13 years earlier to work for Volkswagen, Saab and then Jaguar Land Rover.

Upon his arrival, Bentley’s annual car sales were just over 10,000 and its revenue was less than £ 1.5 billion. Hallmark, who in his teens steered his competitive lane by racing motorcycles, increased sales and increased revenue to a whopping £ 2.45 billion.

When asked how he turned the business around, his answer is characteristically sincere. “We have drastically reduced our costs,” he says, pointing to two recent restructuring processes that have cut jobs.

According to him, it has also significantly reduced the time required to produce cars, by 24 per cent, which will further improve to almost 40 per cent by the end of the year. Despite this, the cost of car production is rising due to growing demand for raw materials, spare parts and transportation. By the end of May, Bentley’s average price was £ 220,000 compared to £ 150,000 last year.

Hallmark says prices are expected to rise 1.5 percent this year. But customers keep coming back. “We hacked the code,” Holmark said. “You think cars are expensive, but that’s not the case when you buy an upscale Mercedes-Benz or Range Rover. In fact cars are too cheap. It’s the best Bentley we’ve ever produced. ” To celebrate the success, earlier this month the company announced a special bonus of £ 2 million for about half of the plant’s employees. Most of the workforce was born and raised in Crewe, where Bentley Pyms Lane remains the largest employer in the city with 4,000 employees.

Hallmark, whose family base is in Switzerland, spends his working days in Crewe, where he visits the plant once or twice a week. He says he does it “to maintain pressure on everyone” and to check for possible quality or production problems.

The main production area is a huge hall, divided into sections that reflect the course of the assembly line: the seamstresses sew leather seats, until the final testing of the electrician to fine-tune performance.

Bentley’s confidence recently prompted it to announce a £ 2.5bn investment in a “dream factory” for electric vehicles.

This is part of the company’s plan to be fully electric for eight years. It is expected that its first “EV” will be built by 2025, and a new model will appear every 12 months until 2030.

Hallmark wants the government to help smooth the transition to electric vehicles. It is concerned about various rules and standards around the world, and countries such as China and the US are potentially taking a less stringent approach to outlawing gasoline engines.

Greater cooperation would give confidence to producers and their significant investments, he says. “Some [countries] oblige the ban on internal combustion engines, others do not. Some are pro-electric, others are not.

“If I look around the world, the timing of the ban spans from 2030 to 2035 and never,” he says.

He urged the government to emphasize the benefits of battery-powered car production when concluding trade agreements in the post-Brexit era. But he is critical of the government’s mandate that manufacturers be fined if they don’t sell enough electric vehicles in the run-up to 2030.

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Boss Bentley: The order book is overflowing, the rich still have pots of money!

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