Volkswagen Group to Bentley: Get Your Act Together, Now

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Image: Bentley Media

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It’s a brand showcased in countless music videos over the past two decades, but that doesn’t mean it features very highly in owner Volkswagen Group’s good books.

British ultra-luxury marque Bentley was just given a dressing down by its strict German guardians, told to shape up and start making money or face the consequences. The stern ultimatum came from the Piech and Porsche families, the auto group’s majority shareholders.

While the parents of the parent group didn’t spell out what would happen if Bentley doesn’t turn over a new leaf in the next one to two years, it’s looking like the brand could find itself in a basket on the front steps of an orphanage.

One to two years. That’s the timeline for a complete turnaround, according Hans Michel Piech.

Wolfgang Porsche, patriarch of the two clans, complained that Bentley, despite its flashiness, just isn’t pulling its weight. “The important thing is for every [VW Group] brand to generate a reasonable contribution margin,” he told Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper (as reported by Automotive News Europe). “That is not currently the case at Bentley, and we are not satisfied.”

Bentley, which has became a member of the VW family in 1998, recorded a $157 million loss during the first three quarters of 2018, down from a slight profit a year earlier.

It’s not all Bentley’s fault, however. The company’s new Continental GT was slow in making it to market due to transmission tinkering (the unit’s sourced from Porsche), while the depressed British pound, coupled with the fact that the UK-headquartered Bentley sources many components from Germany, hit the brand’s balance sheet hard in 2018. Another setback arose from Europe’s new WLTP test cycle, which Bentley didn’t properly prepare for. As a result, its vehicles ended up “stuck in the queue,” CEO Adrian Hallmark told Automotive News Europe in November.

Still, Hallmark claims he’s confident his company will make its parents happy. The exec predicts a return to profit in 2019. It had better. As Volkswagen Group continues its streamlining efforts, the automaker has expressed a strong willingness to sell off non-essential assets.

[Image: VW Group]