Jim Armitage: It's boom time for Bentley and Rolls-Royce motor cars
Jim Armitage is the City editor of The Independent and London Evening Standard group of newspapers. He has been a reporter and editor for more than 20 years and was recently shortlisted for the Press Gazette financial journalist of the year and The Society of Editors financial journalist of the year awards. He contributes news, investigative reports and comment to the Independent titles plus a daily column in the Evening Standard.
Thursday 09 January 2014
Outlook Time was when the chairman of the board would have a Rolls-Royce to be driven in and a Bentley to drive himself.
There were only a few thousand such Bufton-Tuftons around, most of whom were in England, and most of them only replacing the motor every few years. Therein lay the trouble for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, which owned both marques.
How a few decades and deep-pocketed new German owners have changed all that. Figures from both sides of the old business showed yet another record year. Bentley, now owned by Volkswagen, delivered 10,120 cars last year, all handmade in Crewe, 85 per cent of them exported. Before VW bought it in 1998, it was making 1,000 a year.
BMW's Rolls-Royce delivered 3,630. Where the typical Bentley driver was a white-haired old Etonion, he is now just as likely to be a she, and, chances are, cruising through Silicon Valley. For tech tycoons like Twitter's Jack Dorsey, it is a Bentley that graces the hilltop mansion overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
In other words, VW provides a glowing example of how, if foreign companies are seriously prepared to invest in our industries, we should be welcoming, not attacking, their financial muscle and trading nous.
For, while VW will be exporting some of the Bentley profits back to head office in Wolfsburg (along with those of Skoda, Ducati and Lamborghini), it will continue building on the £1bn it has invested in the firm since taking it over. And that means 400 new jobs.
A fair exchange for British ownership that other overseas investors here might do well to follow.
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