Monday 10 January 14:20
Speech by Dr Franz-Josef Paefgen
Chairman & Chief Executive of Bentley Motors
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to the Bentley stand.
It is a pleasure to see everyone here and testament to the importance of the Detroit Show.
2010 was one of the most important years in Bentley’s recent history. We launched no less than 3 new models; the Supersports Convertible seen here at the global media drive in Colorado; the all-new Mulsanne to which customers have been attracted in such great numbers that this year’s production is already fully allocated; and the brand new Continental GT – replacing the most successful car in Bentley’s history.
In terms of sales, 2010 was always going to be challenging as these new models would not deliver sales until this year. Despite this, there were some significant highlights.
• Globally, Bentley sales were up 11% to 5117.
• Even though in run out, coupe sales exceeded the previous year’s – thanks to strong demand for the Supersports.
• Regionally, there were significant variations; modest growth in the US, UK and Asia but clear signs of growing confidence; the Russian market returned to pre-recession levels; but Europe was held back by continuing economic uncertainties.
• The star performer was of course China. Bentley sales rose a massive 87% - cementing its position as our third-largest market but one which ultimately will become number one.
Here in the United States, confidence is now returning and sales increased year-on-year by 6% to 1531. And even more encouragingly, the last quarter’s sales were up over 20%, momentum we carry into 2011.
America’s best-selling model was the Supersports. The extreme Bentley attracted both brand loyalists and buyers who wouldn’t have considered a Bentley before.
The other strong seller was the Continental Flying Spur. Now in its sixth year, we sold more Spurs in 2010 than ever before. Like the rest of our Continental line up, it has the power of 12 cylinders, flex fuel capability and all-wheel drive to give exceptional performance and handling for a true four-door saloon.
For 2011, however, there are two exciting developments. First, the state-of-the-art in-car entertainment system from the new GT is now standard on the Spur. Also, the Series 51 design package which allows customers to order exclusive “off the peg” designs especially created by our colour and trim team, will be available on the Spur for the first time.
So we enter the New Year with great confidence. Our existing cars remain enduringly popular and have received improvements for 2011. It will be the first full year of sales for the new Mulsanne; and the new Continental GT is already garnering headlines and creating tremendous excitement amongst customers desperate to be one of the first to own one. All this means we expect significant double digit growth for Bentley in 2011.
Ladies and gentleman, today is a poignant moment for me. After nearly 35 years in the auto business, this is my very last motor show. From next month I will leave Bentley. I have spent close to 9 years in Crewe and they have been amongst the most rewarding of all my career. During that time, we have been back to Le Mans and won, made the Bentley State Limousine for Her Majesty the Queen, and seen the fruits of the VW investment in Crewe as we delivered a succession of new cars from the Azure and Brooklands to the Flying Spur, GTC and Supersports. And of course the new Mulsanne – which comprises everything we know about making cars.
But my career at Bentley has been book-ended by a car that has come to define the Company. I started by launching the first Continental GT. The car that transformed our fortunes.
So it is fitting that one of my last acts is to pass on a new Continental GT. This is a worthy successor to the original and true to the concept of a Grand Touring supercar which combines stunning performance with a sense of occasion yet has everyday practicality.
So we have a new GT for a new Chairman and Chief Executive. Mr Wolfgang Dürheimer joins in February but I am delighted he is with us today.
Ladies and gentleman, in Herr Dürheimer, we have the right man for the job. His experience and expertise as Head of Engineering at Porsche means that Bentley is in the very safest of hands.
Now there have not been many Chairmen of Bentley – only a dozen or so since W.O. Bentley himself - but it is a rich inheritance.
And nothing typifies that inheritance more than the keys to a very special Company car. In 1930, W.O Bentley created a car which epitomised everything he believed a car should be - the 8 Litre. It was the inspiration behind the Mulsanne you see here today – both are the finest cars Bentley could make. Of the 100 8 litres made, one was extra special – the second one was W.O.’s own company car. That car is now kept at our home in Crewe.
So today it gives me great pleasure to pass on the keys to that very car to our next Chairman and Chief Executive. The 8 Litre symbolises the obligation to be true to Bentley’s brand values. As W.O. put it, to create “a good car, a fast car, the best in its class”. Herr Dürheimer, I wish you and everyone at Bentley every success for the future.
Thank you Dr Paefgen and good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen.
Let me first thank you all for your time today. It is good to be back in Detroit.
It is a privilege to be taking the leadership of a car company with such a rich heritage but also a very exciting future. It is an incredible opportunity taking responsibility for a Brand new to me, but one which shares with Porsche a devotion to engineering excellence, dynamic performance and a tradition of iconic design. I hope I can bring some of my wider personal and professional experience to Bentley.
Given my new responsibilities also include Motorsports for the VW Group, one quote from W.O. has already struck a chord. He said:
“No one ever attempted to dispute that competition success was the best way of selling”.
That has been true of Porsche and true of Bentley with its Le Mans heritage. Whilst that does not mean a return to racing, I recognise the importance of maintaining the traditions that have enabled Bentley to establish such a devoted and loyal customer base over the past 90 years.
Although I officially take up my new role in February, I have already had the pleasure of visiting Crewe and saw just why the Company retains such a pride in its origins. The commitment to quality, craftsmanship and enthusiasm that everyone there shares, is remarkable and a tribute also to the leadership of Dr Paefgen.
I am delighted he has agreed to stay on for a few months to help me learn more about Bentley so that I can continue the success, ensuring it remains one of the finest, most successful and most desirable high luxury brands in the world.
So my very first duty for Bentley is probably the most pleasurable I’ll ever have. And that is to welcome you all onto the stand for a glass of Champagne to toast the success of Bentley and, in particular, join me in celebrating the career and achievements of Dr Paefgen.