Bentley looks to launches after ’emotional sensitivity’ slowed car sales

By Thomson Reuters Mar 19, 2024 | 4:34 AM

By Nick Carey

LONDON (Reuters) – British luxury carmaker Bentley on Tuesday reported a lower operating profit for 2023 after a weak economy and high interest rates hit sales, but the company said its performance had stabilised and new launches would boost it in 2024.

“We had an uneven performance for the first time in about four years,” CEO Adrian Hallmark told reporters. “Even though our customers can still afford our cars… there was a level of emotional sensitivity that slowed down demand.”

For those who leased rather than bought cars with a starting pre-tax price above 220,000 euros ($238,590), interest rates had led to a tripling in monthly fees last year, Hallmark said.

He said the launch of four high-performance hybrids this year should spur sales as the company gears up to launch its first fully electric Bentley in 2026.

Bentley is aiming for an all-electric model lineup by 2030, but Hallmark said its hybrids were likely to be on sale after that deadline as the company seeks to ensure a return on its substantial investment.

The luxury automaker in January reported an 11% drop in sales for 2023 following a record year in 2022.

The British luxury unit of Volkswagen posted an operating profit of 589 million pounds ($748 million) for 2023, down nearly 17% from 708 million pounds in 2022.

Revenue was down 13% at 2.94 billion pounds from a year earlier and the company said its profit margin dropped to 20.1% from 20.9% in 2022 because of investments in new vehicles.

($1 = 0.7872 pounds)

($1 = 0.9221 euros)

(Reporting By Nick Carey; editing by Barbara Lewis)