The UK is not supporting the transition to electric vehicles, according to the head of Bentley

The UK is lagging behind Europe, the US and China in attracting electric investment, Bentley’s boss has warned, as the luxury brand reported its biggest ever profit.

Bentley’s operating profit of €708 million, nearly double the previous year, was boosted by the growing popularity of features such as hand-stitched seats.

Adrian Hallmark, chief executive, said the UK government was “doing nothing to help us” as an established carmaker to invest in electric vehicles.

“If we were a start-up without customers and technology, maybe we could get money, but as an incumbent. . . we cannot get double-digit millions in five years because the policies offered by the government do not support incumbents in transitioning to green technologies,” he said.

The Volkswagen-owned brand has pledged 3 billion euros to transform itself into an exclusively electric vehicle nameplate by the end of the decade.

Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark © Chris J Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

While Bentley will get tax breaks on some of its investments, Hallmark said other regions, particularly the United States with its anti-inflation law, are leaving Britain.

“I wouldn’t say the UK would not welcome it, but it doesn’t facilitate investment at the same rate as China, the US or continental Europe,” he said.

“We are looking forward to the government developing what every other government has developed, which is that if you want a green car sector, you need a foundation, you need support for the transition.”

Bentley’s plan to sell only electric vehicles by the end of the decade was made possible by becoming a member of the Volkswagen Group, which also owns Audi and Porsche.

“If you look at what we’re doing, we have to take every car, every technology, every piece of equipment, every part of this facility and throw it out and replace it with new technologies to be able to develop, build and sell electric cars,” he added.

The business has already announced the end of its 12-cylinder engine and will also launch plug-in hybrid cars by the end of the decade, at which point it will sell only battery-powered models.

Bentley reported an operating profit of 708 million euros on Friday, almost double the 2022 figure of 389 million euros, and car sales rose just 4 percent to 15,174 for the year as the luxury market continued to thrive despite growing economic headwinds.

Revenues increased by a fifth, to 3.38 billion euros, while the profit margin as a percentage of sales was 20.9 percent.

More and more customers are purchasing additional features for their models, helping the company to extract more profit from each hand-built luxury car sold.

One of the most popular features is the hand stitching on the seats, which consists of 286,000 stitches and miles of thread. Bentley assumed that one in four customers would use this feature, but instead 92 percent of cars are built with it.

Likewise, nine out of 10 customers request the function of the rotating dashboard, which can rotate between the wood veneer and the dashboards. Both features add well over €10,000 to the price of the car.

“Customers are spending more on cars than they have in the past,” Hallmark said.

“It’s a much more established demand pattern, it’s not crypto-based, it’s not fast money, it’s proven professionals, successful people who make discerning decisions and express themselves through action and personalization, which is what we can offer.”

Bentley’s car sales are likely to fall slightly this year, although the brand says it can still make more money than before and has seen no sign that economic concerns are denting orders.

“Order rates for the first two months are better than expected and China is better than we thought,” Hallmark added.

The business has completed a turnaround that included losing a quarter of its staff and is now “self-funding”.

But Hallmark doesn’t expect the brand to float, saying it’s stronger as part of the VW family, which gives it access to technology.


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