Purchases of new Bentley cars have fallen sharply because of the state of the global economy, according to the company that assembles the luxury vehicles in Cheshire.
Bentley Motor Cars, a division of Volkswagen, the German group, said it had sold 13,560 vehicles in 2023, 1,600 fewer than in the previous year, a fall of 11 per cent.
Its worst performances were in its home British market, which has been a mainstay of Bentley sales, and in China and Hong Kong, which have long been a cash cow region for luxury motor marques. Annual sales declined by 18 per cent in both markets.
The performance of Bentley is in stark contrast with that of Rolls-Royce, the equivalent luxury division of BMW that is based in West Sussex, which achieved record sales of 6,032 cars in 2023.
It has been argued by the top end of the motor market that luxury cars are immune from economic downturn as buyers tend to be so wealthy that they buy cars to add to their collections and rarely ask to know what price they are paying. Bentley now admits that this is not the case.
“The luxury market was not immune from the challenging market conditions seen around the world in the second half of 2023,” Adrian Hallmark, 61, Bentley’s chairman and chief executive, said.
It was not revealed what the sales decline had done to Bentley’s bottom line. In recent years, when Bentley was reporting record sales and profits, Volkswagen reported Bentley’s earnings separately. That has stopped, but what has been reported is that Bentley is the only brand in sales decline out of the whole VW stable, which also includes Lamborghini, Porsche, Audi, Seat and Skoda
Hallmark indicated that Bentley’s margins remained strong as customers demanded customisation and derivatives of models, including hybrids. However, the company is also going through an expensive £2.5 billion transition to be an all-electric marque by 2030. It is yet to produce its first all-electric vehicle. Rolls-Royce began delivery of its first, the Spectre, in recent months.
Bentley said that nearly half its total sales were of the Bentayga, the £170,000 4×4 vehicle that was launched nine years ago.