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Will There Ever Be a True Electric Bentley?

OPINION AND ANALYSIS: With VW Group’s accelerated plans to cease gas car production sooner, Bentley needs to ask itself what kind of car company does it want to be? If Aston Martin stuffed battery packs inside the seats and boot spare tire wells and fenders of a Rapide, why there isn’t something similar done inside a Spur or a Mulsanne? Bentley isn’t doing that; they’re running counterculture to their heritage, and risk losing what they worked hard to get after leaving Rolls Royce: not becoming another Cadillac.
Posted: December 8, 2018 - 10:25PM
Author: Al Castro


What’s Happening at Bentley:

  • Bentley Motors gets a new CEO from Jaguar Land Rover, and already they’re headed for trouble.
  • Bentley is debuting Bentayga in shameful ancient PHEV technology next year.
  • Bentley has the concept EXP 10 Speed 6 drophead coupe that if put into production would be the world’s first all BEV production convertible. They won’t.
  • Bentley CEO is waiting for something that doesn’t make sense. Maybe an excuse?
  • Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark apparently doesn’t think Porsche’s battery technology is good enough” to put into a Bentley.
  • He says “the current battery power density limits” driving range. Porsche doesn’t seem to have a problem with this.

What’s at Stake for Bentley:

  • But if a Rivian SUV can achieve a 400 mile range on lith ionization, that’s a truck, if Porsche can get a 300 mile range, that’s a sister brand, you can use those two ranges instead of installing an embarrassing hybrid outlet on their SUV, there’s really no excuse, c’mon.
  • When it comes to tech, the best brands get it first that’s the number one rule in the car industry, Bentley is not doing that here. Hybrids are 20+ years old.
  • Bentley shortchanges its customers and itself really, by doing this.
  • As a result, they don’t see a Bentley BEV coming to market until somewhere between 2023 and 2025. Time missed and wasted.
  • That’s a good three year portal in which Cadillac can reintroduce itself into the bespoke market to take the lead with their new bigger flagship, an all electric sedan. Shame on Bentley.
  • Rolls Royce and Maybach should be smart for themselves to put plans into production ASAP while Bentley procrastinates.
  • Luxury brands are leadership brands, and all brands in these segments should be racing towards BEV technology not PHEV, because Tesla is the one to beat.
  • Why should this matter? Because the sooner Bentley and Co. makes electric cars the sooner we peasants get ours cheaper, more efficiently, and sooner.
  • How VW Group allows Hallmark to get away with this is troubling. It’s similar to experience GM had with Johan de Nysschen at Cadillac.

A Bit of Bentley Trivia:

  • Bentley Continental GT Speed is by far the fastest car in the history of the luxury brand. The grand tourer is capable of the maximum speed of 331 km / h, and accelerates from zero to hundred in 3.9 seconds. An electric car can beat that record.
  • Interestingly, it takes about two months to assemble a modern Bentley. One of the reasons, why Bentley is such an expensive marque, is that every car is handcrafted.
  • All Bentley cars were divided into three types: Red Label, Black Label and Green Label. Red Label marks sophisticated and comfortable models, Green Label was given to race-type cars, and Black Label was reserved for especially powerful ones.

John Goreham recently reported on GM’s accelerated plans to cease gasoline car production around the world forever. and save money in the process by closing a half dozen plants and layoff 14,000 workers. In response, VW Group is accelerating theirs with a plan that whatever is in production by 2026 will be the last gasoline cars they’ll ever make. With those plans, you would think that all the VW brand sisters have an action plan to switch over to all electric moving forward. If Bentley, one of those sisters, does, they’re either not telling us, or they’re actually waiting for the world to pass them by.

So what’s Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark’s Lane excuse? Here:
“The problem is when you get to our segment with the size of our vehicles and the frontal area we push through, current battery power density limits the size of the car you can offer with credible driving range,” said Hallmark. “There is nothing industrialized in the supply chain before then.”

Oh really? “Frontal area we push through?” What the hell is that supposed to mean? Well, apparently someone didn’t tell your brothers and sisters at Porsche about this; do they feel that way with the same platform and technology they’re giving you that’s the envy of the industry? If Porsche can put together a powerful drivetrain for a sports saloon with a respectable 300+ mile range, if Rivian can put together a four motor truck which probably weighs around the same as a Bentley with a 400 mile range, then Bentley can get their engineers cracking. C’mon, stop the BS and get the show on the road!

Bentley Compromises Their Brand by Using Hybrids

We’re in year 7 of the Electric Car Revolution, and Bentley plays it safe by partially electrifying a $300,000 SUV from a cheap ancient power train platform basically made for a transition vehicle just phased out from the segment that created it, and made for a commuter car which a Bentley is supposed to be not. I honestly have to laugh at anyone who seriously buys a Bentley Bentayga Hybrid, them seriously thinking that’s high tech and their participation or solution in making the world more green. That’s Bentley compromising their standards, taking advantage of their customers, and cutting costs to save money at the expense of the customers. If they were the best of best it would be only about battery electric technology cars only, not compromising hybrids.

Bentley stooping below itself to offer such a car is sad. A hybrid belongs in a Lincoln or a Buick SUV, not a Bentley. FCA has enough problems making any kind of electric car, period, so let Jeep toy around with PHEVs so Chrysler can get their feet wet, okay? And for Bentley customers not to realize that a PHEV is not the best of best technology, Bentley should be ashamed of itself to stoop so low to even offer it to take advantage of them, that maybe that was one of the reasons Cadillac had no choice really but to cancel theirs. Bentley customers won’t realize sadly how much more money Bentley made off of them from an ancient hybrid platform gone cheap some two decades old!

As I wrote about the Volt cancellation, there’s a reason why we are all here because of electric cars. It is because of Tesla. There’s a reason why Tesla does not make hybrids. Neither should Bentley. Tesla and Bentley, although a different demographic with some overlapping, are both luxury brands. Again, luxury brands are leadership brands. Tesla makes only pure real BEV electric cars. Bentley should also. This revolution is not about hybrids, this is about our future, our environment, our children, our planet. A hybrid platform is designed to be a commuter car for its range, certainly not for what’s supposed to be a seriously expensive custom all terrain vehicle.

Hybrids would have been great 12-20 years ago for a brand like Bentley if we didn’t know what a hybrid was. That’s what Bentley is for and about. It is about going to an auto show and seeing the bonnet Iid of a Bentley open and for the first time seeing an American style 6.75L V8 done up with all kinds of complicated electrical crap we have no idea how it works, instead of that storied blower Bentley likes to put on its engines sometimes, like the Turbo R, and say WOW. And if it is about hybrid, it is about enhancing horsepower, not turning their soccer dad SUV into a 20 mpg pig instead of a 15 mpg pig to save gas. Oh gee, what a savings! Doing hybrid today for Bentley is a yawn and a disappointment. Do any of these guys at Wolfsburg or Crewe do car history as a requirement? Today a hybrid was a commuter car of the 2000s. Now Bentley decides to put that ancient technology into their cars, and expect their customers to pay $300,000 for it, c’mon.

Bentley can get away with using the same old platform for years with their storied 6.75L V8 engine, but it shouldn’t wash with an ancient hybrid system car makers made up as a band aid to wait until lithium ionization got cheaper. Well here we are, VW Group announcing whatever is in production now is it as far as gasoline cars, so if you want one, better come soon if not now. Bentley created this situation, and with no electric vehicles in production, I’m talking BEV, they risk being a following “discount luxury brand” like Lincoln and Cadillac, instead of being a true leadership brand like Aston Martin or Bentley’s performance big sister, Porsche.

History Proves Bentley Experimented to be on Top:

I give a good 100 year profile of Bentley Motors Ltd in this feature story. I focus here on the Cricklewood years before the Rolls Royce acquisition to contrast how corporate culture has changed for the company, be damned of different times: this is about improvement in technology and capitalizing on it ASAP.

It was during the Cricklewood Years of the later 1920’s through the Big Crash while Team Bentley was winning consecutive races at the 24 Hours at LeMans that W.O. (Walter Owen) Bentley himself was experimenting with different engines while putting them into the grand tourers he was delivering to his clientele London Bankers. Bentley was about taking risks on the race track as well as in the factory. He knew the right combination of reliability and taking a chance for the sake of horsepower. Bentley was the first car company in industry history to offer a five year warranty on any of his cars, something Bentley doesn’t do today. “The Bentley Boys,” friends of W.O. from his well heeled North London neighborhood or from the war years, wealthy gentlemen of means with military experience with a love for racing and cars, were W.O.’s test pilots through these years if W.O. wasn’t racing himself. Sometimes if the power plant wasn’t a good racer at least it made for a torquey engine to put into a saloon.

The Cricklewood Renaissance began around 1926 with both the 41/2 Litre and “Blower Bentley.” There was a double incentive that not only were stakes raised by getting faster cars onto the racing circuit, but also his customers were putting larger and heavier coached bodies on Bentley chassis that required bigger engines. It’s one thing to put these engines on top of Duesenberg skeletons for the Indy 500 or on the Mulsanne Straight or at Brooklands, it’s another when on a Bentley chassis with heavier coached bodies. The arms race of torque or horsepower of the late 1920’s began. All options were on the table with high stakes and shoestring financing.

If the engine proved to be a good racer it was put into the banker cars, and the 61/2 Liter and Speed Six proved to be the most popular of the Bentley power plant stable during this renaissance. The 8 Litre capped the era as probably the best. The best it is so considered, only 100 were made. Mr. Bentley’s best personal Bentley he ever made, was a personal Bentley made for Bentley himself, a 1930 saloon he had to give up at receivership. Some say, it was the 8 Litre that was Bentley’s undoing, that it was such a good engine and such a sales success, that Rolls Royce bought the company to eliminate its competition. History proves Bentley was to be in receivership at the right time for Rolls to buy them. Had time passed further on Bentley’s own, a sale probably wouldn’t have been as attractive and they probably would’ve had no choice but to permanently shutter as the Great Depression worsened.

Let’s now follow Bentley’s corporate ethos to transfer this effort to electrics, an advanced technology with fewer moving parts. What would W.O. Do?

Bentley Now

So here we are with Bentley almost 90 years later at the heels of their centenary next year, and 10 years into advanced lithium ion battery technology where another parent car company that Bentley belongs to has the best battery technology and program in the world next to Tesla, and are willing to give it to Bentley to run with it. The technology has so improved that it has become cheaper to manufacture lithium ion while the next state of the art of solid state battery power supplanting works its way through the industry. But with the change of hands and a new CEO of the historically storied subsidiary, he sends a message that perhaps the technology isn’t good enough to put into a Bentley. That’s far from the truth.

Based on history, there is no doubt in my mind had W.O. lived through these times he definitely would have experimented with electricity to see how much torque and horsepower he could get to maximize performance. W.O. was a mechanical engineer by trade, not an electrical engineer like Dr. Ferdinand Porsche was, so Bentley being a gear head may have been a hindrance during the time, but Mr. Bentley was also a racer, and it was not only about building the most state of the art cars, but it was also about winning races!

Bentley Concept: EXP 10 Speed Drophead: Gorgeous

This is what Bentley has in concept form, and they have enough technology and test driving between Audi and Porsche, to implement what you see here in concept, that they choose not to for frankly, silly reasons. And if they did, it would be the first drophead coupe in the history of the industry to be a BEV convertible. Bentley risks doing these kinds of industry firsts at the risk of purely playing it safe for another car maker to claim this stake. It’s a beautiful car and could be concrete. This is the Concept Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 Drophead Coupe. All electric. Begin ravishing:

If this car is about waiting for VW Group doing its finishing touches on its “Premium Platform Electric” PPE architecture for Bentley, a platform when modified exclusively for Bentley that other Bentley electrics may sit upon, and of course, separate from the modular MEB ID platform that VW intends to use for the People’s Cars elsewhere, then damn it, stop the BS and tell us so! That would explain everything. This is the same platform Taycan sits upon as well as the newly minted Audi e-Tron GT, and in a Bentley variant would make for an ultra chic and fast Conti GT or Flying Spur saloon electric.

A nice gesture by Bentley, and I know this would have been done back in the day if RR Bentley had the tech to do so, would’ve been to stuff that new technology Hallmark is so afraid of, with an appropriate battery pack into a present Bentley platform structure, under fenders, tire wells, gas tanks, and all, and let Bentley customers have fun with it until the mods were ready to become the next generation to put all that Taycan power back where it belongs. This is what Aston did in Wales with Rapide-e for Lagonda. A Conti GT electric would have been a great limited edition red label and a Spur saloon electric would have been a great black label limited edition. Put a third motor to make it ridiculously fast and call it something exclusive like a “Bentley Mulsanne Turbine Electric” and/or “Bentley Turbine Electric R,” or “Continental Flying Spur Red Label E.” Watch them sell out. Hotcakes! That’s the Bentley I know!

Aston Martin seemed to do a successful job doing this and learned from it. It gave them good production practice, and let a rare all electric Aston out into the wild they could monitor while evaluating it as a production electric, as they get ready to turn their electric program exclusively over to their new all BEV division, Lagonda. Lagonda. The next leadership BEV brand. Hmm doesn’t surprise me. W.O. Bentley when he got tired of Bentley’s bullcrap, for a time left and went to work for Lagonda. Mr. Bentley got tired of Bentley, so Mr. Bentley drove Mr. Bentley’s Bentley which was Mr. Bentley’s Bentley, and not Bentley’s, over to Lagonda. You following my car history? But Mr. Bentley caved, so Mr. Bentley took Bentley’s Bentley back to Bentley and was rehired as a Bentley, an employee, not car. Things didn’t go as he exactly wanted, and he learned from his mistakes, but Mr. Bentley did live happily ever after. But Mr. Bentley never got his Bentley back.

Waiting for Time Means Compromising Your Brand

That’s what’s at stake with letting time slip while Bentley could be perfecting performance with electricity on the road, not in a lab or racetrack, and this is how their brand suffers as a result. Little did we know decades later that the tides would turn against Rolls Royce in a sale of both companies that went all wrong, but the winds of fortune would change in favor of Bentley.

You see, there’s two morals of this story we need to pay attention to, besides the issue of putting the fastest power plants they could find into their cars, it’s also about branding. And, if there is nothing to back up your brand, then you have nothing at all. Ask Cadillac about this. In the end of the sale at the turn of the century to VW, BMW got the short end of the stick, not the other way, but VW has the most to lose as they acquired a second string luxury brand with Bentley, not BMW with Rolls. And this is important: VW got the soul of what was Rolls, not the Bavarians, and the Saxons are putting themselves in the position of squandering it with procrastination.

The acquisition didn’t happen because two Goliaths in the industry tripped over each other because they wanted Bentley. That all happened because they both wanted Rolls Royce. What BMW got was permission with the accoutrements it acquired from the sale that are symbols of the brand, to recreate what is a replica or an interpretation of what Rolls Royce may have been had she survived the 20th century. Actually Rolls Royce did not. No doubt, don’t get me wrong. BMW is doing an excellent job. But it is what it is. But there is no Crewe or Derby soul in a Ghost, Dawn, Wraith, or Phantom 8. Ironically there all wraiths of Rolls Royce’s future looking at a split from its past.

Bentley got the heart and soul of the company that makes them the real Rolls Royce, all those cars you see in that illustration above are Rolls Royces but no longer branded that way, from the same factory where for over 50 years hence, Rolls and Bentleys were made side by side. This is why even today, a Bentley is still actually, and always will be, as long as they make Bentleys out of Crewe, at least to keep headquarters there, a Rolls Royce. Not what BMW makes. And now this new hotshot from JLR telling us this about waiting for batteries with that silly excuse until he feels comfortable to start putting them into Bentleys? That sounds oxymoronic if not paradoxical. Bentley needs to be careful.

This is why particularly CEO Hallmark is squandering a moment that Bentley could maintain its leadership as a luxury brand, and pull away from any competition. And if he misses this opportunity, Bentley falls right back to where it once was, in the shadow of Rolls Royce, and if careless, further back to Cadillac. You may laugh, but there was a time in the 1970’s that Bentleys were hardly made, nobody wanted them, they’re so rarer than RR in those years of Shadow/T Series, that certain years it is the Bentley variant that is now more valuable ironically than the Rolls variant. Bentleys were so laughable as an after thought as common and as sad as Cadillacs were becoming by littering airport rental counters starting in the 1970’s at the same time. Why is it an inclination for either brand to revert to its old ways to self destruction, I’ll never understand. You want to be the best? Then lead! You want to be the afterthought? Then follow!

No excuses this time either: Rolls Royce historically worked against Bentley to mitigate them. The first thing they did was took away Bentley’s racing apparatus for 70 years. VW gave it right back the first thing. With the Porsche family that now owns them, they are the darling crown jewel in the VW Group jewelry box. A Bentley should be a bigger British Porsche on luxury and performance steroids. I say to them: start acting that way! Lead!

What is it You Want, Bentley?

The rule of thumb Bentley engineers should be asking themselves as to how far and to what effort they need to exert to get a real electric Bentley to market, they should ask themselves this golden rule: what would W.O. do?

If this equipment is good enough to be put into a Porsche, with tweaking and improvements I know Bentley can do something different if not better. By eschewing the Porsche technology Bentley sends a wrong message about its corporate sister Porsche and the VW Group brand. And if this is about waiting for the new PPE platform to be perfected so that Bentley can start thinking about designs, then be honest, and tell us so! The present excuse is beyond flakey.

I know this: if GM had a tolerance point for Johan De Nysschen and his occasional nonsense when they booted him from Cadillac, with needing green results from VW divisions after the Dieselgate Affair, VWG’s tolerance point for Bentley CEO Hallmark, another outsider like Audi man De Nysschen was, is probably even shorter. Ironically, I bet a brand obsessive De Nysschen fit at Bentley would have been more seamless, than it was for him at GM! I think moving forward the Porsche family that owns VW Group would be better served if a Bentley leader comes in-house from Crewe or from the crop cream at Porsche or Audi. Meantime, Jaguar Land Rover Man Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark better be smart for himself. And listen to the words of W.O.: “build a fast car, a good car, the best in its class.” All the materials he needs to do that are right in front of him, not having to go elsewhere. I say do his job and let Bentley do theirs!

What do you think of Bentlley’s Electrical plans? Let us know below!


DeanMcManis (not verified)    December 11, 2018 - 12:36PM

With regard to the classic Bentleys getting electrified, just like the Jaguar and Aston Martin classic cars, it is certainly possible. There are several shops that handle the conversion process, but Jaguar and Aston Martin are highlighting their past heritage and tying it to their modern electric technology. Plus it doesn't require any crash testing or smog compliance, so it's a pretty easy way to get good press. Plus they are charging a bag full of money for these bespoke classic conversions. Regarding the prospect of producing new electric Bentleys, I also see this as a possibility. On one side Bentley and Rolls Royce are small, specialty automakers that historically did not change as a point of pride. But now that Bentley is owned by VW (with their vast resources) and especially their new drive towards electrification, I could easily see them showcasing BEV technology in Bentley's new Continental GT. The added bonus is that EV technology is a great match for Bentley's design, seeing that excellent performance (tons of instant torque) and smooth, near silent operation are Bentley goals, and Electric motor's strengths. And the EV drivetrain's economical operation and reliability would be welcome bonuses in this class of car. The biggest hurdles would be packaging in a car that was not designed for an EV drivetrain, and importantly if the current bosses can overcome traditional thinking to move Bentley ahead into the future.

Al Castro    December 22, 2018 - 10:25AM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

Bentely has no choice, and they need to get with the program. Cadillac has the same problem too, I’m still scratching my head to figure what’s their problem. That they’re both luxury brands and they’ll do whatever when they want to? VW Group like GM will become all electric auto companies. Very soon. Sooner than we think, sooner than theyre telling us. Not one gas vehicle. This includes Cadillac, and this includes Bentley. They’re not going to be making exceptions for anyone, I don’t care how rich the customer. So your “possibilities” must become realities!

Daniel L (not verified)    December 12, 2018 - 5:44PM

Just let them die out with all of the other fools that refused to change with technology, i.e. Kodak, Cadillac etc. Rivian made a 400 Mi range battery... It's crazy that they think they will never need one.

Al Castro    December 22, 2018 - 10:28AM

In reply to by Daniel L (not verified)

Im assuming you mean a electric vehicle. Bentely really deserves to go extinct after the gall of introducing a plug in for a $275,000 SUV, a quarter mill commuter car for a 50 mile range. I know Bentley has a historical connection with GM, most Silver Shadows and T2‘s are outfitted with an insane amount of GM parts, but PHEV tech is 2000’s Chevrolet tech made ad hoc as a carry over. They really should be ashamed of themselves.

Chris (not verified)    May 14, 2019 - 5:13AM

Maybe one day Bentley will sell an electric car, but for sure Bentley will always sell gasoline cars like today because gasoline cars MADE Bentley's HISTORY and Bentley's customers always want Bentley gasoline cars. Simply.

Al Castro    June 16, 2019 - 1:57AM

In reply to by Chris (not verified)

Chris I’m afraid not. ICE cars are totally banned from Europe by 2035, some places there by juristriction even now, so it doesn’t make sense for Bentley to make ICE cars anymore relative to their home market to begin with. This is why Aston Martin and JLR have opened heritage electrification shops globally to help legacy customers keep their vintage Jags Land Rovers and Astons on the road by being electrified. Bentley and RR don’t have such a thing yet if ever. Plus VW Group, Bentley’s owner, professes an all electric future for the entre line, that includes Bentley. This will happen much sooner than we expect. So no, the rich folks won’t have a choice. Besides, an electric Bentley will be more cooler than a gas will ever be, with more torque and horsepower than ever before. Watch. You’ll see! ;)