James Bond. Queen Elizabeth. The Beatles.
These are just a few of the quintessentially British ‘brands’ that immediately spring to mind whenever the country flying the Union Jack is mentioned.
In the automotive world, few can be more British than Bentley, one of Britain’s oldest motor companies and one that can still proudly say that each vehicle that goes out of its factory in Crewe is proudly and painstakingly put together in the United Kingdom.
With the opening last May 8 of the first Bentley Manila showroom at the 2nd floor of the PGA building on Edsa, the eight-figure Bentley vehicles that combine heritage and innovation, luxury and performance are now within easier reach of that elite group of Filipino buyers who appreciate the value of these ultra-luxury vehicles with the revered winged “B” standard.
The first models on display are the flagship Mulsanne, Continental GT, Continental GT Speed and the Continental GTC. Like all Bentley vehicles, these models have powerful engines and elegant, handcrafted interiors composed only of natural materials such as wood, leather and metal. No plastics here.
Geoff Dowding, Bentley eegional director for Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, told the Inquirer that the Philippines is admittedly a small market compared to the traditional hunting ground of vehicle manufacturers such as the United States, China, Germany and the United Kingdom.
PH as an emerging market
However, the Philippines is one of the emerging markets that are growing in importance in the world of Bentley, which has embarked on an aggressive campaign to penetrate more countries.
The Philippines is the 52nd country with a Bentley presence and PGA Cars is its 183rd dealer.
In 2012, Bentley’s global sales increased by 22 percent to 8,510 cars. The Americas remained the largest sales region with 2,457 cars, while China sales were up by 23 percent to 2,253 cars.
Sales in the Middle East surged by 44 percent to 815 cars while sales in Asia Pacific increased by 44 percent to 358 cars. Sales in Japan increased at the fastest pace of 73 percent to 190 cars.
Sales in struggling Europe also managed to increase by 12 percent to 1,333 cars and in the United Kingdom, 1,104 cars were delivered, up 7 percent from the previous year.
“Over the last five to eight years, we saw the emergence of much smaller markets that have grown in their own way, where we would see sales of maybe 15,20 or 30 cars a year. But that makes a business and it is viable and we are happy with the viability,” said Dowding, who flew to Manila to attend the inauguration of the Bentley showroom.
Dowding was optimistic that Bentley would be able to muscle its way into the Philippine market that already hosts such luxury brands as Lamborghini, Porsche, Ferrari, Mercedes Benz and BMW due to its unique proposition to car lovers.
“Bentley offers an unusual blend of performance, power and capability on the road with handcrafted luxury,” said Dowding, added that other luxury vehicles usually offered just one or the other, not both.
The rare combination of style and substance is in keeping with Bentley founder Walter Owen Bentley’s vision of “making a good car, a fast car and the best in its class.”
The markets have responded to that vision with sales in the first quarter of 2013 already up by 25 percent from the level seen in the same period of 2012 and Dowding expects 2013 sales to easily surpass 2012 levels.
Robust sales so far this year reflect the recovery in the global economy as well as the success of Bentley in getting market share away from its competitors.
Dowding said the recent success of the 94-year-old automotive company could be traced to the Continental GT that it launched in 2002.
“There was a big market at that price point between $150,000 and $200,000. We filled that gap, gave those with $150,000 something to spend their money on. That is why it took off, it really flew,” said Dowding.
From 1,000 to 10,000 cars
“In 2003, we sold less than 1,000 cars a year, by 2007, we hit a record of 10,000 cars. With the financial market collapse, we ended up back at 4,000 cars a year. We had to go through shrinking pain after growing pains, but we are on our way back,” he added.
Bentley Manila general manager Amado del Rosario said PGA Cars, which already distributes Porsche, Lamborghini and Audi in the country, added Bentley to its line as the admired luxury brand “fits perfectly with our strategy of bringing the most desirable and sought after luxury cars into the market.”
“The year 2013 will be a strong and positive start for Bentley. It has a very young and fresh model lineup. We have just launched the new Mulsanne and new Continental GT. And by the third quarter, we will be launching the new Flying Spur,” he said.
Del Rosario added that sales have already started to pick up in the Philippines with two Bentleys already turned over to customers.
“We are extremely confident of achieving and sustaining, if not surpassing, this pace of customer deliveries. CEOs are among those awaiting the arrival of their bespoke, individualized Bentley Mulsannes,” he added.
The people behind Bentley Philippines expect many more to follow their lead.