The History of Bentley

Fertigung des MK VI in Cricklewood

The Bentley brand had been the driving force in the growth of Rolls Royce Motor Cars for a decade when the Vickers Group put the chronically underfunded producer of luxury automobiles up for sale in October 1997. The royal carmaker was ideal for the development of a luxury segment under the Volkswagen Group umbrella: Bentley supplied the sporty and luxurious model range and Rolls Royce the illustrious name. In March 1998, it became clear that Volkswagen could not have both. On July 3, 1998the Wolfsburg manufacturer acquired the Bentley brand, the factory in Crewe and the right to use the Rolls Royce brand name until the end of 2002. Volkswagen’s brand policy had been mainly focussed on Bentley cars from the outset. By its acquisition, the Volkswagen Group made a successful entry into the luxury segment. Rolls Royce and Bentley once again went their separate ways after 2003, resuming the tradition started in the early days of their history, when the two companies had been competitors.

Unterzeichnung des Übernahmevertrags Bentley

Walter Owen Bentley established Bentley Motors in London on January 20, 1919. Six months later, the company was wound up in the course of a financial restructuring and refounded under the same name. Bentley had a passion for engines and speed. He had established a reputation as a fine engineer by developing two aircraft engines in World War I before his 3-litre Bentley prototype attracted attention at the London Motor Show in November 1919. The remarkably uncomplicated vehicle’s handling, performance and braking qualities were ground-breaking, and it featured a newly designed 4-cylinder engine which could take the car to the then magical speed of 100 miles per hour. The first mass production vehicle, delivered to its owner in September 1921, was made in a small factory established by Bentley at Cricklewood in North London. Almost 150 cars had been assembled there by 1922, while production costs multiplied as sales grew. At this point it became apparent that the engineering expertise of Bentley, the visionary, was not matched by his business acumen. In 1924, despite financial difficulties, he began to develop a 6.5 litre model intended as his masterpiece. Two years later, the luxurious model was ready for production but the company was bankrupt. The millionaire businessman and car enthusiast Woolf Barnato came to the rescue and took over the company, with W.O. Bentley retained as Managing Director. Following a brief revival – which, in 1929, saw Bentley Motors record its first and only profit – the Great Depression, poor cost awareness on the part of management and the development of the 8-litre Bentley once again drove the company to bankruptcy in July 1931.

Fertigung des MK VI in Cricklewood
Walter Owen Bentley
Arnage Red Label
EXP Speed 8 in Le Mans

It was the coupe developed to close the market gap between Mercedes and Porsche, an entirely new model, that was to bring the breakthrough for Bentley and open up a new customer segment. Designed, developed and built in Crewe, the Continental GT fulfilled a long-held dream for Bentley. The company had built a new assembly shed specially for this new model. Constructed using bodyshells supplied by the Volkswagen plant at Zwickau, the traditional craftsmanship which still played a key role in its production was complemented by state-of-the-art technology. The production of a Continental GT took 150 hours, as against 400 hours for an Arnage. Following the debut of the prototype at the Paris Motor Show in 2002, Bentley launched the production model the following year. By that time, 3,200 orders had already been taken. The four-wheel-drive Continental GT embodied a striking synthesis of elegance, luxury and speed. The new model was powered by a compact 12-cylinder, twin-turbocharged engine, giving the two-tonne car a top speed of 320 kilometres per hour on the test track. As had been hoped, the coupe allowed Bentley to attract new, younger customers impressed by its style, performance and technology.

Cockpit des Continental GT
Continental Flying Spur
Produktion in Crewe
Bentley Mulsanne

By 2009, sales had fallen back to 4,616 units. The recovery began in 2010 with the launch of the new Mulsanne. The new f lagship embodied an exemplary combination of supreme luxury with the outstanding performance of the 12-cylinder engines. The new-generation Continental GT, featuring more distinct contours, extra interior space and additional driver assistance and information systems, delivered a sportily elegant and luxurious facelift to the model, enabling the brand to achieve turnaround in 2011. Bentley returned to profit after three loss-making years. Having delivered 8,510 vehicles to customers in 2012, sales had risen to 11,020 units by 2014, thanks in part to the eightcylinder Flying Spur. This enabled Bentley to build further on its leadership position in the luxury car segment. Increased unit sales generated an operating profit of EUR 170 million. Key drivers of growth were the new V8 engines in the Continental GT and GTC as well as the launch of the new Continental GT Speed, which with a top speed of 330 kilometres per hour (205 mph) became the fastest roadlegal Bentley ever.

The specified fuel consumption and emission data are determined in accordance with the measurement procedures prescribed by law. 1 January 2022, the WLTP test cycle completely replaced the NEDC test cycle and therefore no NEDC values are available for new type approved vehicles after that date. This information does not refer to a single vehicle and is not part of the offer but is only intended for comparison between different types of vehicles. Additional equipment and accessories (additional components, tyre formats, etc.) can alter relevant vehicle parameters such as weight, rolling resistance and aerodynamics, affecting the vehicle's fuel consumption, power consumption, CO2 emissions and driving performance values in addition to weather and traffic conditions and individual driving behavior. Due to more realistic testing conditions, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions measured according to WLTP will in many cases be higher than the values measured according to NEDC. As a result, the taxation of vehicles may change accordingly as of 1 September 2018. For further information on the differences between WLTP and NEDC, please visit Further information on official fuel consumption data and official specific CO2 emissions for new passenger cars can be found in the "Guide to fuel economy, CO2 emissions and power consumption for new passenger car models", which is available free of charge from all sales dealerships and from DAT Deutsche Automobil Treuhand GmbH, Hellmuth-Hirth-Str. 1, D-73760 Ostfildern, Germany and at