Mark of success: Bentley CEO, Adrian Hallmark, at the Crewe plant, which has 4,000 employees
The boss of carmaker Bentley is struggling to find the words to describe the company’s recent success. With war raging in Ukraine, and the world economies faltering on the edge of a cliff, Adrian Hallmark says: “I have never seen anything like it.”
Despite the cost-of-living crisis and the impact of rising inflation, Bentley continued to break records in the market for luxury brands that appeared to be resistant to recession.
The manufacturer sells handmade cars ranging from more than £ 150,000 SUVs that have become the ultimate status symbol for wealthy families, to sedans equipped with Scottish tweed that can reach speeds of up to 200 mph.
Last year, it made a profit of £ 335 million by selling 14,659 cars worldwide. This was followed by its best quarter ever this year.
Despite that success, Hallmark, 59, an industry veteran, is well aware of how quickly things change. Imagine that you are in the strongest speed you have ever had, but act as if you are in the greatest slump. This is how you feel.
Every month this year, it seems to be causing a devastating new shock, he says – the war in Ukraine, the Chinese stalemate – which worries him that demand is on the verge of ebb.
But that has not happened yet. But he says unexpected times require a smarter approach. We have to think ontologically every time we do something. The moment you relax and think you have succeeded, you die.
The courage of factory workers in Ukraine helped Bentley, who continued production lines in the manufacture of cables for cars while conflict raged in the country. It also had a healthy supply of stock which meant it never ran out of essential parts as other manufacturers tried in vain to get products and parts where they were needed.
Despite the possibility of a looming recession, Hallmark is confident that the customer base will continue to grow and the rich will still want to get their cars in their hands. “We are not pessimistic about the future,” he said of the elegant Bentley showroom in Crewe, Cheshire.
We are still seeing strong signals on demand and the order book is strong. People who have a lot of wealth still have a lot of wealth in a recession. There is still a lot of money around.
It has been a massive revival for Bentley since Hallmark returned to the company in 2018, after leaving 13 years ago to work at Volkswagen, Saab and then Jaguar Land Rover.
Upon his arrival, Bentley’s annual car sales were just over £ 10,000 and revenue just under £ 1.5bn. Hallmark, who led its competitive teen series through motorcycle racing, increased sales and revenue to £ 2.45 billion.
When asked how he turned the business around, his answer was characteristically candid. “We have drastically reduced our costs,” he says, referring to two recent restructurings that have cut jobs.
He also says it has dramatically reduced the time it takes to build cars by 24 percent, which will further improve to nearly 40 percent by the end of the year. Despite this, the cost of car production increases as the demand for raw materials, spare parts and means of transport increases. By the end of May, the average Bentley price was £ 220,000, compared to £ 150,000 last year.
Hallmark says an additional 1.5 percent price increase is expected this year. But customers keep coming back. “We cracked the code,” Hallmark said. “You think cars are expensive, but it is not if you buy a Mercedes-Benz or a Range Rover. Cars actually run very cheaply. This is the best Bentley we’ve ever made. To celebrate the success, the company announced a special bonus of £ 2 million for about half of the plant’s staff earlier this month. Much of the workforce was born and bred in Crewe, where Bentley’s Pyms Lane location remains the city’s largest employer with 4,000 workers.
Hallmark, whose family is in Switzerland, spends his working days in Crewe and visits the factory site once or twice a week. He says he does this to “keep the pressure on everyone a bit” and to look for any potential quality or production issues.
The main production area is a large hall divided into sections that indicate the course of the assembly line: seamstresses sew the leather seats, until the final electrical test for performance setting.
Bentley’s confidence recently led the company to announce a £ 2.5 billion investment in a ‘dream factory’ for electric cars.
It is part of the company’s plan to be fully electric within eight years. Its first electric car is expected to be built by 2025, with a new model every 12 months until 2030.
Hallmark wants the government to help facilitate the transition to electric cars. He is concerned about different rules and standards around the world, with countries such as China and the United States likely to follow a less stringent approach to banning petrol engines.
He adds that more collaboration will give certainty to manufacturers and their huge investment. ‘party [countries] They impose a ban on internal combustion engines, some are not. Some are pro-electric, some are not.
“If you look around the world, the ban is from 2030 to 2035, and even never,” he says.
He called on the government to highlight the benefits of manufacturing battery cars here when doing business in the post-Brexit era. But he is critical of the government’s mandate to fine manufacturers if they do not sell enough electric cars in the run-up to 2030.
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