LONDON — Bentley will embark on its "biggest product offensive" with plans to introduce five full-electric vehicles in five years starting in 2025.
The first full-electric vehicle will be introduced in late 2025 and will create a fifth product line, CEO Adrian Hallmark said during an online presentation Wednesday.
The new vehicle will "create and shape a segment," Hallmark said, without giving more detail. "The first BEV is a game-changer," he said.
The EVs that follow will replace Bentley's existing lineup starting in 2026, leading up to the automaker's plan to sell only full-electric vehicles by 2030. “The current cars will be converted to electric versions," Hallmark said.
Bentley likely will start with the Bentayga SUV, its bestseller. Bentley also sells the Flying Spur sedan, Continental GT coupe and Continental GT convertible.
Bentley said on Wednesday that it will invest 2.5 billion pounds ($3.36 billion) over the next 10 years as part of the plan to electrify, including construction of a new plant at its headquarters in Crewe, England, for its first EV.
The new facility will use automated guided vehicles to move bodies around rather than a traditional conveyor belt, said Peter Bosch, Bentley's head of manufacturing. "It will give us the ultimate flexibility in volume," he said.
Using automated vehicles is preferred by low-volume manufacturers because they allow assembly stations to be skipped for different variants and they require lower capital expenditures than a traditional assembly line.
Bentley, which is owned by Volkswagen Group, said the new investment will be self-funded from its profits, which are expected to hit a high after the brand sold a record 14,659 vehicles in 2021. The automaker will release 2021 financial results in March.
The investment will need to pay for a complete overhaul of product development and manufacturing, including switching to more software-defined vehicles, incorporating autonomous capabilities and "digitizing the value chain," said Jan-Henrik Lafrentz, Bentley’s CFO.
"The challenge is really huge in front of us,” Lafrentz said. Bentley will not seek U.K. government funding to help pay for the transformation, he said.
Ultraluxury automakers have been slower to move to electrification and have long said the that full-electric technology is not yet ready to satisfy the demands of their customers. The 2025 date is far enough away that it "leaves us time to make sure our customers have a truly luxurious experience," said Alain Favey, Bentley’s new head of sales.
The first ultraluxury full-electric vehicle will come from U.K. rival Rolls-Royce, which will launch the Spectre coupe in 2023, two years before Bentley. Ferrari will launch its first full-electric car in 2025, while Lamborghini has said its first full-electric vehicle will appear by 2030.