Bentley Motors

Bentley-LeMans-France-24-Hours

Bentley Motors is a British luxury automaker, and a wholly owned subsidiary of the German Volkswagen AG.Its principal activity is the design, engineering, manufacture and distribution of luxury automobiles sold under the Bentley marque. Based in Crewe, England, Bentley Motors Limited was founded by W. O. Bentley on 18 January 1919 in Cricklewood near London and was acquired by Rolls-Royce in 1931.

Bentley Motors Limited is the direct successor of Rolls-Royce Motors, which Volkswagen AG purchased in 1998. The purchase included the vehicle designs, model nameplates, production and administrative facilities, the Spirit of Ecstasy and Rolls-Royce grille shape trademarks, but not the rights to the use of the Rolls-Royce name or logo, which are owned by Rolls-Royce Holdings plc and were later licensed to BMW AG.

Bentley vehicles are sold via franchised dealers worldwide, and as of November 2012, China was the largest individual market for Bentley automobiles.[12] Most Bentley cars are assembled at the company’s plant in Crewe, with a small number of Continental Flying Spurs assembled at the Transparent Factory in Dresden, Germany.[13] Automobile bodies for the Continental model line are produced in Zwickau, Germany. Bentley cars are largely hand-built.

Bentley cars have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930 and 2003. The current Bentley production models are the Continental Flying Spur, Continental GT and Mulsanne. Notable former Bentley production models include the Bentley 4½ Litre, Bentley Speed Six, Bentley Turbo R and Bentley Arnage.

Cricklewood

Before World War I in Cricklewood near London, Walter Owen Bentley had been in partnership with his brother Horace Millner Bentley selling French DFP cars, but he had always wanted to design and build his own range of cars bearing his name. In August 1919, Bentley Motors Ltd. was registered, and a chassis with dummy engine was exhibited at the London Motor Show in October of that year.[14] An innovative 4 valves per cylinder engine designed by ex–Royal Flying Corps officer Clive Gallop was built and running by December, and orders were taken for deliveries starting in June 1920; however, development took longer than estimated, and the first cars were not ready until September 1921. Their durability earned widespread acclaim. Appearances were made in hill climbs and atBrooklands.[citation needed]

First major event – 1922 Indianapolis 500

Bentley entered the 1922 Indianapolis 500 mile race as their “first major event”, sending one car with works driver Douglas Hawkes and riding mechanic H. S. “Bertie” Browning. In a race dominated by specialized cars with Duesenberg racing chassis, Hawkes completed the full 500 miles in a modified road car, finishing 13th with an average speed of 74.95 mph after starting in 19th position. The team was then rushed back to England to compete in the 1922 RAC Tourist Trophy.

Performance at Le Mans

Bentley Speed Six
  • 24 hours of Le Mans Grand Prix of Endurance
  • 1923 4th (private entry)
  • 1924 1st
  • 1925 did not finish
  • 1926 did not finish
  • 1927 1st 15th 17th
  • 1928 1st 5th
  • 1929 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
  • 1930 1st 2nd

Rolls-Royce stopped the racing programme.

It was on a visit to the DFP factory in 1913 that W.O. noticed an aluminium paperweight, and had the inspired idea of using the lightweight metal instead of cast iron to make engine pistons. The first Bentley aluminium pistons went into service in aero engines for the Sopwith Camel during World War I.

Barnato becomes chairman

Woolf Barnato acquired his first Bentley (a 3-litre) in 1925, just 12 months before he also acquired the business itself. With this car he won numerous Brooklands races. He was a member of a social set of wealthy British motorists known as the “Bentley Boys” who favoured the cars of W. O. Bentley. Many were independently wealthy, often with a background in military service. Barnato was nicknamed “Babe”, in ironic deference to his heavyweight boxer’s stature.

The Bentley enterprise was always underfunded, but inspired by the 1924 Le Mans win by John Duff and Frank Clement, Barnato agreed to finance Bentley’s business. Barnato had incorporated Baromans Ltd in 1922, which existed as his finance and investment vehicle. Via Baromans, Barnato initially invested in excess of £100,000, saving the business and its workforce. A financial reorganisation of the original Bentley company was carried out and all existing creditors paid off for £75,000. Existing shares were devalued from £1 each to just 1 shilling, or 5% or their original value. Barnato held 149,500 of the new shares giving him control of the company and he became chairman. Barnato injected further cash into the business: £35,000 secured by debenture in July 1927; £40,000 in 1928; £25,000 in 1929. With renewed financial input, W. O. Bentley was able to design another generation of cars.

Volkswagen AG vs. BMW AG

In October 1997, Vickers announced that it had decided to sell Rolls-Royce Motors. BMW AG seemed to be a logical purchaser because BMWh already supplied engines and other components for Bentley and Rolls-Royce branded cars and because of BMW and Vickers joint efforts in building aircraft engines. BMW made a final offer of £340m, but was outbid by Volkswagen AG, which offered £430m. Volkswagen AG acquired the vehicle designs, model nameplates, production and administrative facilities, the Spirit of Ecstasy and Rolls-Royce grille shape trademarks, but not the rights to the use of the Rolls-Royce name or logo, which are owned by Rolls-Royce Holdings plc. In 1998, BMW started supplying components for the new range of Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars—notably V8 engines for the Bentley Arnage and V12 engines for the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph, however, the supply contract allowed BMW to terminate its supply deal with Rolls-Royce with 12 months’ notice, which would not be enough time for Volkswagen to re-engineer the cars. BMW paid Rolls-Royce plc £40m to license the Rolls-Royce name and logo. After negotiations, BMW and Volkswagen AG agreed that, from 1998 to 2002, BMW would continue to supply engines and components and would allow Volkswagen temporary use of the Rolls-Royce name and logo. All BMW engine supply ended in 2003 with the end of Silver Seraph production. From 1 January 2003 forward, Volkswagen AG would be the sole provider of cars with the “Bentley” marque. BMW established a new legal entity, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited, and constructed a newly built administrative headquarters and production facility for Rolls-Royce branded vehicles in Goodwood, West Sussex, England.

Car models, Crewe VW & BMW

  • 1999–2002 Azure Mulliner—performance model
  • 1999 Continental T Mulliner—firmer suspension

Modern Bentleys

The Bentley line-up from late 2000s (from left): Flying Spur, Continental GT, and Arnage

Queen Elizabeth II’s Bentley State Limousine

After acquiring the business, Volkswagen spent GBP500 million (about USD845 million) to modernise the Crewe factory and increase production capacity. As of early 2010, there are about 3,500 working at Crewe, compared with about 1,500 in 1998 before being taken over by Volkswagen. It was reported that Volkswagen invested a total of nearly USD2 billion in Bentley and its revival. As a result of upgrading facilities at Crewe the bodywork now arrives fully painted at the Crewe facility for final assembly, with the parts coming from Germany—similarly Rolls-Royce body shells are painted and shipped to the UK for assembly only. In 2002, Bentley presented Queen Elizabeth II with an official State Limousine to celebrate her Golden Jubilee. In 2003, Bentley’s two-door convertible, the Bentley Azure, ceased production, and Bentley introduced a second line, Bentley Continental GT, a large luxury coupé powered by a W12 engine built in Crewe. Demand had been so great that the factory at Crewe was unable to meet orders despite an installed capacity of approximately 9,500 vehicles per year; there was a waiting list of over a year for new cars to be delivered. Consequently, part of the production of the newFlying Spur, a four-door version of the Continental GT, was assigned to the Transparent Factory (Germany), where the Volkswagen Phaeton luxury car is also assembled. This arrangement ceased at the end of 2006 after around 1,000 cars, with all car production reverting to the Crewe plant. In April 2005, Bentley confirmed plans to produce a four-seat convertible model—the Azure, derived from the Arnage Drophead Coupéprototype—at Crewe beginning in 2006. By the autumn of 2005, the convertible version of the successful Continental GT, the Continental GTC, was also presented. These two models were successfully launched in late 2006. A limited run of a Zagato modified GT was also announced in March 2008, dubbed “GTZ”. A new version of the Bentley Continental was introduced at the 2009 Geneva Auto Show: The Continental Supersports. This new Bentley is a supercar combining extreme power with environmentally friendly FlexFuel technology, capable of using petrol (gasoline) and biofuel (E85 ethanol). Bentley sales continued to increase, and in 2005 8,627 were sold worldwide, 3,654 in the United States. In 2007, the 10,000 cars-per-year threshold was broken for the first time with sales of 10,014. For 2007, a record profit of €155 million was also announced. Bentley reported a sale of about 7,600 units in 2008. However, its global sales plunged 50 percent to 4,616 vehicles in 2009 (with the U.S. deliveries dropped 49% to 1,433 vehicles) and it suffered an operating loss of €194 million, compared with an operating profitof €10 million in 2008. As a result of the slump in sales, production at Crewe was shut down during March and April 2009. Though vehicle sales increased by 11% to 5,117 in 2010, operating loss grew by 26% to €245 million. In Autumn 2010, workers at Crewe staged a series of protests over proposal of compulsory work on Fridays and mandatory overtime during the week. Vehicle sales in 2011 rose 37% to 7,003 vehicles, with the new Continental GT accounting for over one-third of total sales. The current workforce is about 4,000 people. The business earned a profit in 2011 after two years of losses as a result of the following sales results:


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