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Bentley Revels in £500m Profits as Wealthy Pursue Personalised Cars


Luxury carmaker Bentley is capitalising on the growing trend among the globe’s wealthiest individuals who are choosing to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in “levels of personalisation that we’ve never seen before,” according to company statements.

Despite widespread economic challenges, Bentley’s CEO, Adrian Hallmark, affirmed that “our customers can still afford our cars,” although some may hesitate before making a commitment.

While many households grapple with inflation and the ongoing repercussions of the global energy crisis, the realm of luxury car buyers seems largely untouched by the weaker global economy. The super-rich across the world demonstrate a willingness to spend vast sums on customising their vehicles to distinguish themselves from the merely affluent.

“In the past, it might have been one individual in Brunei,” noted Hallmark, referencing the affluent but diminutive oil-rich kingdom. However, Bentley is now witnessing increasing interest from various corners of the globe in a global contest of one-upmanship.

This surge in demand aided the company, owned by Germany’s Volkswagen, in achieving operating profits of €589m (£502m) – its second-highest on record after 2022 – on sales of €2.9bn in 2023, as per financial results released on Tuesday. Bentley delivered 13,560 cars in 2023, marking its third-highest retail figure in history.

While a Bentley car already commands a substantial price tag, starting at approximately £170,000, the wealthiest buyers demand more. For instance, one buyer commissioned a bespoke, one-off car with a price tag of €2m. Additionally, Bentley provided a quote of an extra €400,000 for options that “we never even thought of,” resulting in “jaw-droppers,” such as incorporating racy carbon fibre to replace metal components.

In another instance, a customer requested the use of wood from their personal forest to craft the car’s panels. Such extravagances, including a personalised tree emblem stitched onto headrests, escalated the total cost of the car to £480,000, more than double the standard price.

In practice, few car buyers can resist indulging in fancy add-ons, even for less expensive models. Hallmark disclosed that his customers typically spend about £39,000 extra on features like different-coloured leather, hand-stitched detailing in coloured thread, “jewel fuel caps,” and “exotic and sustainable” materials.

Bentley is not the sole British luxury carmaker elevating personalised options to extravagant heights. Its competitor Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, owned by Germany’s BMW, previously produced a car with a paint job containing 1,000 crushed diamonds, along with another featuring a night sky recreated on the roof using LED lights.

The trend towards personalisation has fluctuated throughout the consumer age. While Henry Ford is often lauded for pioneering modern factory production methods based on standardisation, other companies have found success by offering extensive customisation options.

Bentley takes this to another level, boasting a claimed 46 billion configurations for its cars, surpassing even Starbucks’ assertion of 170,000 drink combinations.

However, one option not yet available to even the wealthiest Bentley customers is purchasing a car with zero carbon emissions. The company has postponed the launch of its first battery electric car until 2026 due to battery supply issues.

Hallmark affirmed that despite the delay, the company remains committed to carbon neutrality, with plans to transition to all-electric models as each model is replaced. Nonetheless, this means Bentley will continue to sell hybrids beyond 2030, combining internal combustion engines with small batteries.

The UK government, initially under Boris Johnson, had intended to end sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2030. However, Chancellor Rishi Sunak reversed this decision, extending the ban until 2035.

Hallmark cautioned against potential changes in policy by a future Labour government, particularly if an election were to occur within the next year, stressing the need for carmakers to receive ample notice to adjust production plans. Labour had pledged in October to advance the ban to 2030.

“We cannot react or respond at that speed to these vacillations,” Hallmark cautioned.

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