Many Bentley customers believe they have obtained their wealth because of luck.
So says Bentley Motors' new CEO, Adrian Hallmark, during an interview in Geneva.
"I have recognized that a lot of our customers follow a similar thing: They are super-successful. And a lot of them think it's because they're lucky," he says. "That's really important, because they don't think they're above human weakness and frailty."
Such perceived (and believed) good fortune is spurring the world's millionaires and billionaires to make luxury purchases, based on a system of values such as reduced carbon footprints and sustainability, he adds. According to Hallmark, hybrid and electric cars allow them to express in a novel way, he says.
"There is a new dimension long-term in the purchase decision --the ethical value," Hallmark says, referring to gleanings from a 2008 internal study Bentley did of the world's wealthiest people. "Electrification is part of it, and electrification isn't going away."
In fact, this new addition to the traditional considerations for buying a luxury car --performance, quality materials, and craftsmanship -- is manifesting so strongly among the world's top 1 percent that it is influencing Bentley's product planning for the next two decades.
The company debuted its Bentayga Hybrid, a mid-six-figure SUV that can run 31 miles on purely electric power, last month at the Geneva auto show. (The 5,400-pound SUV isn't exactly an econobox, but the hybrid badge certainly adds a feeling of green-tinged do-goodery -- both for drivers and for onlookers who know what it means.) By 2025, all Bentley cars will offer some version of an electric drivetrain, Hallmark says. That includes its growling 12-cylinder Continental GT line, the latest generation of which is due out before summer.
It may take up to a decade to make an electric version of such a car, but the way Hallmark sees it, Bentley has no choice.
"We already know that the [next version] will be a battery electric vehicle," he says. "It will have all of those moral and ethical benefits with it. By not going that way, even if we don't have to, we would be massively underperforming in terms of customer potential."