Bentley plans to become electric-only brand

Europe

Bentley will drop internal combustion engines from its cars by 2030 and switch its entire model range to full-electric vehicles.

The Volkswagen Group ultraluxury brand also confirmed it will add two plug-in hybrids next year and its first full-electric car in 2025.

The full-electric car will be the first of a family of EVs, Bentley’s engineering chief, Matthias Rabe, said during an online presentation on Thursday.

The moves are part of Bentley’s strategy to position itself as an ethical company with the aim of being climate neutral by 2030.

By 2026, the brand will only offer plug-in hybrid and full-electric models as part of a strategy called Beyond 100, which references its 100-year history.

“Within a decade, Bentley will transform from a 100-year-old luxury car company to a new, sustainable, wholly ethical role model for luxury,” CEO Adrian Hallmark said in a statement on Thursday.

Bentley declined to give more details on its future models, but the plug-in hybrids due next year are expected to be versions of the Flying Spur sedan and the Continental GT coupe.

Bentley currently sells only one plug-in hybrid — the Bentayga Hybrid SUV — amid its lineup of models with eight- and 12-cylinder engines.

Bentley will become electric within four to five years, VW Group CEO Herbert Diess said on a Bloomberg online event on Thursday.

Bentley has previously hinted that its first full-electric car could be an SUV built using VW Group’s Premium Platform Electric (PPE) underpinnings currently being developed by Porsche and Audi, which are also owned by VW Group. Last December, Hallmark told Automotive News Europe that Bentley aims to transition onto a new VW Group architecture.

Bentley is planning to switch the replacement for the Continental GT and Flying Spur, which share their MSB platform with the Porsche Panamera, onto the PPE platform, sources told Automobilwoche, a sister publication of Automotive News Europe.

Bentley’s future has long been the subject of discussion among VW Group’s top managers, who have been frustrated by the brand’s lack of consistent profitability.

The latest plan, according to the Automobilwoche report, is to transfer control of Bentley to Audi from Porsche, with the aim of having Bentley use more of Audi’s technology.

Bentley was profitable in 2019 and was predicting a record-setting 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic hit. It was bullish after expanding the sales markets for its delayed Continental GT and Flying Spur cars into the U.S. and China, and launching the heavily face-lifted Bentagya.

Hallmark said in June that Bentley will lose money this year after it was forced to halt production at its factory in Crewe, England, in the spring during a government lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He said the brand could still beat last year’s sales figures as demand rebounds, particularly in China.

Bentley said it was able to reduce job losses designed to lessen the financial impact of the coronavirus lockdowns from the planned 1,000 — a quarter of its workforce — to 800 as its finances improved.

Bentley said that the job cuts as well as a cost restructuring will give the brand a “consistently profitable business model for the next 100 years.”

The brand’s program to reduce its carbon footprint includes fitting 30,000 solar panels around its headquarters and factory in Crewe.

Bentley said the factory would be “climate positive” by 2030 as it further cuts waste and buys more electricity from renewable sources.

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