Bentley converting to electric-only brand

Bentley will drop internal combustion engines from its lineup by 2030 and switch the entire model range to full-electric vehicles as part of longterm plans to dramatically cut emissions.

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

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

The moves are part of Bentley’s strategy to position itself as a socially responsible company with the aim of being climate and carbon 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 the 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 a lineup of models with eight- and 12-cylinder engines.

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

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

Bentley is planning to switch replacements 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.

Profit scrutiny

Bentley’s future has long been the subject of discussion among VW Group’s top ranks, 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, allowing Bentley to tap more Audi technology.

Bentley was profitable in 2019 and was predicting a record-setting 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic hit. It was optimistic after expanding sales of the delayed Continental GT and Flying Spur cars in 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 a 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 minimize job losses designed to lessen the financial impact of the coronavirus lockdowns from a planned 1,000 — a quarter of its workforce — to 800 as finances improved.

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

The brand’s plan 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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