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September 15, 2009

FRANKFURT SHOW: UK needs to act on manufacturing – Bentley

Bentley has called on the British government to make up its mind over the UK as a manufacturing base.

Bentley has called on the British government to make up its mind over the UK as a manufacturing base.

Sales and marketing director Stuart McCullough said not enough was being done to help manufacturers in the country. There was already a question mark over the future of General Motors’ Vauxhall operations as the US maker moves ahead with plans to sell its European unit dominated by Opel in Germany to Magna International.

There are fears that Vauxhall’s commercial vehicle plant in Luton, north of London, may shut.

McCullough also fears for other UK manufacturers. He said: “The government needs to demonstrate that it wants manufacturing to continue in the UK. Right now it is sending out mixed signals, it says it does but it is not doing anything about it.”

He stopped short of saying that Bentley’s parent company Volkswagen could shut down manufacturing the luxury cars in Crewe and move production elsewhere, but added that “you can’t say that could never happen – although we are fully committed to a strong base in Crewe but the government is not making it very easy for us.”

McCullough pointed to the reduction in capital allowance from 20% to 25% – money spent on research and development and the removal of the company car tax on vehicles over GBP80,000. “Where are 20% of all cars costing over GBP80,000 made? In the UK.”

He added: “Bentley has a true manufacturing base in Crewe from design, engineering, testing, production and quality control. This involves a very high degree of craft and human hours and we need the government to make a commitment to help us retain this.”

Like most manufacturers, Bentley had to stop its production lines earlier this year and the financial crisis hit motor industry sales. McCullough said: “We had to slow down the supply to our dealers – even though almost all of our cars are sold before they are built, we still had some people walking away from their deposits.

“We had to take the pressure out of the system by stopping building cars but we are now back to normal working.”

Bentley launched its new Mulsanne model at Frankfurt, it’s due to go into production next year, and McCullough said the company was expecting to see “modest” sales growth following its introduction.

“There have been encouraging signs particularly in China where sales are growing – around 500 cars this year – and the Middle East is holding up well.”

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