Bentley Motors Ltd. will cease hand-building 12-cylinder engines in April of next year as the British carmaker focuses on turning out a fully electric model lineup by the start of the next decade. The Volkswagen AG-owned manufacturer plans to retrain and redeploy the 30 employees who assemble and test W12 engines in Crewe, England, where Bentley has been making cars for 77 years. The W12 has been in production there for the last two decades.
“The time has come to retire this now-iconic powertrain as we take strides toward electrification,” Chief Executive Officer Adrian Hallmark said in a statement. Bentley expects high demand for the final Speed and Mulliner versions of its Continental GT, Bentayga and Flying Spur models powered by an updated version of the engine.
Bentley has been a rare success story among UK carmakers in the years since the Brexit referendum, having earned record profit on its best sales ever last year. It’s plowing as much as £3 billion ($3.6 billion) into its Crewe complex in a multiyear overhaul befitting the radical change in its product lineup.
As a low-volume manufacturer owned by one of the world’s largest carmakers, Bentley is insulated from the UK’s troubling lack of local battery production. Hallmark said late last year that the company won’t need a battery factory in Britain, telling reporters that the cost of shipping them in from elsewhere will be manageable.
The CEO was less sanguine about the broader UK auto industry’s prospects, saying that it will be difficult to import batteries in bigger volumes because they cost about six times what engines do. Britain’s shrinking car manufacturing base — production has slumped to the lowest in 66 years — also is cutting against the business case for battery suppliers to set up factories.
Phasing out the W12 will make room for Bentley to expand its line of engines used for plug-in hybrids. When production ceases next year, the company will offer the option of a hybrid powertrain across its model lineup.
First Published Date: 22 Feb 2023, 08:44 AM IST