Blog: Dave LeggettBentley Mulsanne

Dave Leggett | 17 August 2009

These are tough times for Bentley.

The firm defined a new market segment with the Bentley Continental GT, but it has suffered more than most in a recession which has decimated sales in that particular class. Figures for first half-year production at Crewe show a total of just 1,400 Bentley cars made - a drop of almost 70% on the same period last year.

Bentley has been a case study in Volkswagen's successful approach to brand management though. It has given the brand the benefit of its considerable industrial strength - the Continental GT and Flying Spur share much under the skin with the VW Phaeton - while also giving it a degree of autonomy.

Bentley has duly retained its 'English-ness', and also modernised it.

With the Continental GT the brand was transformed and introduced to people who probably thought a Bentley was something you asked Jeeves to bring round the front.

Now Bentley was something modern, aspirational and, crucially, attainable. But not as attainable as a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz. There is still an air of exclusivity and the brand has not been harmfully diluted by higher volumes.

What do you do with the flagship though? Keep it traditional or be a bit more adventurous?
The styling of the new Mulsanne appears to tread that fine line in delivering a look that does both. It certainly looks like a car with presence and is something else off the beaten track to look out for at Frankfurt next month (along with - by way of contrast - the electric Trabant).

Even in the tough times, you have to keep the new product coming.

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