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The Bentley Beginning
The man behind the luxury Bentley marquee was founder Walter Owen Bentley. At the turn of the century W.O Bentley became successful for his range of aircraft engines like the BR1 used in World War I. Fast forward to the late 90’s and Bentley Motors Limited is still in existence and owned by Volkswagen Group of Germany.
First & Always a James Bond Car
W.O Bentley and his brother H.M Bentley dreamt of owning their own line of cars bearing their name. In August of 1919, their dream finally came true but, due to the Great Depression and the lack of proper funding, a wealthy group of car enthusiasts took the holding. The British car aficionados dubbed the “Bentley Boys” kept the car’s good name alive and won the 24 hours of Le Mans for four consecutive years in 1927 to 1930. In the late 1920’s Bentley became famous throughout popular culture for being James Bond’s car.
The Rolls-Royce Era
In 1931, Rolls-Royce bought out Bentley and an entirely new luxury car company was formed called Bentley Motors Ltd. In 1933 the 3.5 Liter Bentley was more a variant of the Rolls-Royce 20/25 and disappointed many Bentley loyals. Due to poor sales in the 1970’s and some mishaps within Rolls-Royce, Bentley was put aside into Rolls-Royce Motors Ltd. Bentley remained independent until it was bought out with Rolls-Royce in 1980 by Vickers. Vickers was a famous British engineering company from 1828 until 2004.
The VW & BMW Era
In 1998 the Volkswagen Group bought Bentley and Rolls-Royce from Vickers for a little over $600 million. Volkswagen had outbid BMW for ownership of Bentley/Rolls-Royce and then licensed the companies out to BMW for about $60 million. The deal that Volkswagen and BMW came to agree upon was that Volkswagen would manufacture the cars until 2002, whereupon manufacturing would turn over to BMW alone. VW said goodbye by presenting Queen Elizabeth II with an official Bentley stat limousine in 2002. In 2003 the Bentley Azure which did not have a BMW engine was taken out of production and replaced by the Bentley Continental GT, a luxury coupe. The Continental GT’s engine was a W-12 variant on Volkswagen’s engine. Demand for the Bentley Continental became so great that manufacturing had to be moved to a second facility and a year long waiting list for a new Bentley. In April 2005, production of a 4-seater convertible variant on the Arnage Drophead coupe was put into the works. The 4-seater convertible was called the Azure and was launched along with the Continental GTC in late 2006. Bentley sales continued to increase and in 2007 the company hit an all time high record of 10,014 cars sold, surpassing their 10,000 cars per year threshold.
Bentley Future Cars
With Bentley’s induction into the VW Group, rumors of an SUV began to surface. For now though, they remain just rumors as employees say an SUV would not fit into the Bentley family. Plus the fact that the Bentley facilities are already running at full capacity. Another point of interest that remains to be seen is if Bentley will borrow hybrid technology as the trend towards going green continues to grow.