Not content with the idea of being left in the past as an old-school luxury marque for the elderly, Bentley has big ideas for the future of no-expenses-spared mobility, laid out by chairman and CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit.

During his speech, Dürheimer talked about the vast challenges that lay ahead for luxury carmakers. “The next 10 years will be transformational for luxury carmakers. 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.

“And these future customers will have very different expectations and requirements to the luxury car buyer of today,” he said, adding that they will likely want an approach to technology and vehicle ownership that is a complete change from those that came before.

“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.”

Dürheimer’s plans on engaging these new customers are aimed at safeguarding Bentley’s position in the upper echelons of the automotive industry for years to come. “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,” he said.

Wolfgang Durheimer, Bentley Motors

The British brand’s global research, he claims, suggests that those shopping for luxury goods in the future will value tradition, heritage and craftsmanship highly, and demand beautiful, high-quality authentic design – with every material used being sustainable and serving a purpose.

“As those of you who know our cars and our brand will agree,” Dürheimer said, “these are all traits that Bentley demonstrates in abundance. In particular the idea of authenticity. There is an unmistakable human touch about what we do; the ‘da Vinci’ in the detail that separates our cars from the rest.”

The application of this approach in real life includes a number of potential features and ideas that the company could introduce in the future, Dürheimer added – including a club in which customers are no longer shackled to a single vehicle. Bentley has already announced a trial that allows customers to have their fuel delivered to them.

“I believe there is a big future for more diverse and sophisticated concierge-style services that will enhance the lives of our customers,” he said. “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.”

Dürheimer also posits new ways of integrating traditional materials and new technologies. “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.”