The electrification push in Bentley will be a strong one – in the next few years, the Volkswagen-owned British luxury automaker will be introducing a plug-in hybrid variant of every model line-up, while regulators worldwide enforce increasingly stringent emissions standards.
“PHEV sometimes is mentioned as a transitional technology — it will be out of our way pretty soon. From my point of view, plug-in hybrid technology provides the best of two worlds,” said Bentley chief executive officer, Wolfgang Durheimer to Automotive News. The company has said that a plug-in hybrid variant of the Bentayga SUV will be expected to debut in 2018.
Following the Bentayga, the next-generation Continental GT range will be next to receive a PHEV variant, Durheimer said after his speech at the 2017 Automotive News World Congress in Detroit.
The Crewe-based luxury automaker also sees a change in the expectations of its future customers. “We will see customer demographics broaden and change dramatically to incorporate millennials; the rising affluent in developing economies; and members of Generation ‘C’ – the connected generation where attitude, rather than age, is the defining characteristic,” Durheimer said.
“Our research tells us that they will, for example, demand instant, unobstructed access to technology, information and convenience; have an entirely different attitude towards vehicle ownership; and live in an increasingly urbanised world with all the mobility challenges and opportunities that this presents,” he added.
This points towards an increased focus upon technology, albeit at the same time holding on the tradition of the Bentley persuasion. “Our belief is that technology on its own is not enough. Technology in isolation is cold and can never be truly luxurious. We must never lose the human touch.”
“I believe there is a big future for more diverse and sophisticated concierge-style services that will enhance the lives of our customers. We are also investigating a global Bentley customer network – a ‘club’ where ownership does not relate to a single vehicle, but rather it entitles you to a luxury mobility solution in selected cities around the world,” Durheimer explained, foreseeing demand for services beyond just the automobile itself.
“We will certainly use new technology to enhance traditional and authentic materials in new and contemporary ways. One possible example of this could be to overlay OLED screens across wood veneers. These ultra-thin screens would be invisible except when in use, for example, to control the audio or HVAC systems,” Durheimer said, giving a possible gaze into the Bentley crystal ball for material things to come.