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The History of Bentley Motors

Bentley was founded in 1919 by W.O. Bentley in Cricklewood, near London, England. Mr. Bentley was a motorsport enthusiast and he put his passion for speed into his new company.

Bentley's first cars weren't completed cars. In those days, it was common to buy a chassis and engine and then have coach maker complete your car to your specifications. Bentley's first chassis debuted in 1919 at the London Auto Show, but wasn't ready to be sold until 1921.

Bentleys quickly became know as the fastest cars around. This reputation was driven by the success of a group of British enthusiasts known as the Bentley Boys. It was during the 1920's that Bentley achieved great success racing in the world famous endurance race, the 24 hours of Le Mans, which Bentley cars would win five times.

Rolls-Royce Ownership

The Great Depression reduced demand for Bentley's expensive autos and in 1931 the company was unable to make a debt payment. On July 10th, 1931, the company was put into receivership. There was a buyer which was expected to acquire Bentley's assets, but instead a competing bid emerged from the British Central Equitable Trust which outbid all other parties. It was soon revealed that the British Central Equitable Trust was a front for Rolls-Royce Limited. After the purchase, the original Bentley facility was closed and Mr. Bentley went to work at Rolls-Royce. He stayed with the firm until 1935, when he left to work with Lagonda.

After the conclusion of World War II, Rolls-Royce moved car production from their facility in Derby to Crewe. In the ensuing decades, Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars would share many bodies and chassis. In fact, almost all Bentleys produced between 1931 and 2004 used Rolls-Royce chassis and engines.

Vickers Ownership

Under Rolls-Royce ownership, Bentley sales fell in number of units sold and as a percentage of total sales for the company. Rolls-Royce fell on hard times in the 70's and spun the automobile business out on its own. In 1980, Vickers acquired Rolls-Royce Motors LTD. Under the new owners, the Bentley brand was reinvigorated and sales climbed. By October of 1997, Vickers sought to sell.

Volkswagen Ownership

In 1998, Volkswagen acquired Rolls-Royce Motors, including Bentley Motors, from Vickers. The name Rolls-Royce and the famous Rolls Flying Lady logo weren't included in the sale. They are owned by Rolls-Royce DSF, who later licensed the Rolls-Royce name and logo to BMW. At the time, BMW had been supplying engines and other supplies to Vickers and continued to supply VW until 2003.

These transactions created two distinct companies and began the modern era for both. BMW owned Rolls-Royce produced the new flagship Phantom in 2003. In 2004, Bentley launched the Continental GT, beginning a period of exciting growth for the company.

Since 2002, Bentley's annual production has grown by nearly 7 fold to around 10,000 unit per year. They project to add another 3500 per year with the edition of Bentley Bentayga, bringing total sales to 15,000 by 2020.

history/bentley_history.txt · Last modified: 2017/12/22 22:11 (external edit)

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