By Adam Rapp
Bentley Motors is, in no uncertain terms, in a class of its own. With over a hundred years on the road, this luxury automaker offers a brilliantly different experience for its customers. In 1931, Bentley was acquired by Rolls Royce and sold again to the Volkswagen Group in 1998. While Bentley’s ownership has changed, its original mission statement still stands strong; “To build a good car, a fast car, the best in its class.” On a recent Dealer News Today podcast episode, former Bentley COO Mark Barnes discussed what it was like to work within the auto market’s ultra-luxury space.
“It is an unbelievable product,” said Barnes during the interview. “There is only one robot in the entire plant for Bentley where all of the vehicles are built.” Barnes went on to say that all of the vehicle’s steering wheels are hand stitched by one individual who starts the process with a simple fork (no euphemisms – this is a fork). Fascinatingly, the company also gets their leather from an area where there are no mosquitoes. This guarantees that any leather in the vehicle will not be blemished, which according to Barnes is “unheard of” in a Bentley.
Barnes also describes how Bentley goes above and beyond to give customers a genuinely unique experience. “The stories are limitless in what colors the vehicles come in. One lady liked her nail polish and wanted the color (the car) to match her nail polish.”
As of today, Bentley has over four thousand employees at its headquarters in Crewe, England and has been named one Britain’s Top Employers for five consecutive years. The company is also locally involved in their community and a committed contributor to charity. They also created a school liaison program that focuses on raising interest in STEM school subjects. This unique and comprehensive program also offers foreign language classes and career advice. To help make good on their local commitment, Bentley offers one hundred and fifty work experience positions to students in the Crewe area.
In comparison to automakers such as Ford, Toyota, and Hyundai, Bentley merely appears to have generated a different kind of ability to provide a more unique experience. That said, it is not impossible for the average auto company or dealership to implement some of Bentley’s ingenious branding and experience tactics into their own businesses. Simply put, the Bentley culture is fueled by passionate employees. The people building the vehicles by hand and the salespeople who go to extra lengths to ensure that the consumer gets exactly what they want, are committed to same kind of excellence.
Are there truly ways to implement the Bentley method into your dealership and operations? Charity and community service are great places to start. With several recent college graduates struggling to find work due to the pandemic, internships are a great way to help these individuals out. Partnering with your local high school or community college to offer classes in auto sales, servicing and dealer entrepreneurship will not only help to jumpstart the careers of future entrepreneurs, sales, and service people, but will also help your dealership to connect with the local community on a deeper and more functional level.
On a final note, one of the more important takeaways from the Bentley experience is having a strong mission statement. It is important that your employees genuinely love the brand they are selling and servicing. While a Corolla might not be as emblematic of financial success as a Bentley, every customer deserves an experience that inspires confidence in their purchase, while motivating them to become a steadfast devotee of your business practices.