Five Minutes With: Bentley CEO Wolfgang Schreiber

Bentley CEO Wolfgang Schreiber has been on the job for less than a year but faces critical decisions. He must determine the future of the Continental line and, along with new head designer Luc Donckerwolke, has to fix the disastrous EXP 9F crossover. We sat down with him at the Detroit auto show, where Bentley is showing the GT Speed convertible, to discuss what lies ahead for the brand.

On the Bentley SUV:

“Luc Donckerwolke is a professional. He can easily adapt what is now necessary to improve for Bentley. He is already very concentrated working on the SUV.

“We’re working on it. Not only the stylists but also all development guys and purchasing guys. We are concentrating, to do steps we would do if we had the final release. We are very confident we’ll get that final release within the next weeks or months. We also see a strong business case. We collected 2000 preorders from customers for such a car, without having seen the final styling.”

On the changes from the concept

“If you would see it now, you would see definitely differences. It is more refined. The exterior and interior is still a work in progress, but it is different from the Geneva car.

“It is still an SUV, I can tell you that. From the dimensional point of view, it is not completely different.”

On weight:

“To be honest our customers do not complain about the weight of our car. We all know that our cars are not lightweights. But on the other hand, it is always a question of feeling. And our cars have enough power [and] enough torque to accelerate effortlessly. Therefore, weight is more a thing for us from the engineering point of view.

“For sure, we’ll do everything to reduce the weight in the future, with our midterm successor of the Continental. But to reduce the weight by 1 ton or so would give a completely different car, and you’ve got different customers. The current customers would not be happy.”

On future sales:

We think and absolutely believe we can have a double-digit growth this year. [Bentley sold 8510 vehicles in 2012, a 22 percent improvement from the year before]. Double digit begins with ten [laughs]. 2018, our long-term volume goal is 15,000, but there’s something we should mention: volume is not the main issue for us.  We know we need that volume, but first of all we try to fulfill all the requirements of our customer perfectly, and then we want to earn money with that approach. We are not a volume brand. [For the SUV] I want to say something about 3000 or 4000 a year.”

On whether the next Continental will ride on the same platform as the Porsche Panamera:

“First of all, we have relatively new cars on the new platform. So our range is more or less new. It is not necessary to get in a hurry and decide things without very deep investigation. Within this year we have to decide whether we go this or that direction.”