Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess plans to put Bentley under the control of Audi, company sources told Automobilwoche.
Currently Porsche CEO Oliver Blume has responsibility for the UK-based ultraluxury brand on VW Group’s management board.
Diess believes Bentley has the potential for a fresh start under Audi, according to the sources. Audi would oversee Bentley’s technological and financial activities starting next year, the sources said.
Diess aims to streamline VW Group’s brand portfolio, which stretches from luxury brands including Bentley, Audi and Porsche to the mass-market VW, Skoda and Seat marques. VW is said to be reviewing whether its Lamborghini, Bugatti and Ducati niche high-performance brands have a future within the company as the automaker increasingly focuses on electric, digital and autonomous vehicles.
Bentley returned to profit last year but will probably still lose money this year because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, CEO Adrian Hallmark told Automotive News Europe in June. Brexit is also weighing on the brand, with Hallmark warning that if the UK leaves the European Union’s single market next year without a trade deal, profits could be cut by up to a quarter.
Two years ago Porsche hired a consulting firm to map out scenarios for Bentley’s future. These included ending volume production at the brand’s factory in Crewe, England, and turning the plant into a specialist manufacturer for special bodies, one-offs, armoring, small series and long-wheelbase vehicles.
Hallmark prevented the proposal from being carried out by improving the factory’s efficiency, reducing costs and cutting 1,000 jobs, equivalent to a quarter of the workforce, according to VW sources. Shared platforms and ‘less bling’ Bentley’s future lineup up could share more technology with Audi, including using Audi’s Artemis technology project that is working on a successor for Audi’s range-topping A8 sedan to also develop a full-electric car for Bentley.
The successors to the Bentley Continental GT and Flying Spur, which share their MSB platform with the Porsche Panamera, would be based on VW Group’s upcoming Premium Platform Electric (PPE) platform that Audi and Porsche are developing, according to sources.
Bentley’s models will be differentiated from Audi’s through design. They will have less bling and aim to represent “sustainable luxury,” according to sources. This would be similar to what Daimler is doing with Mercedes-Maybach and BMW with Rolls-Royce.