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Bentley charts path forward with new Mulliner line and EV future

·Senior Reporter
·4-min read
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It was smashing weekend at Goodwood, the motorsports extravaganza in the southern part of England, and not just because it was a good time.

EV supercar maker McMurtry smashed the all-time record up the famed Goodwood hill with a sub-40 second time, easily beating all its competitors on Sunday’s shootout.

Though it wasn’t a surprise the audacious McMurtry would win, it was still the first EV roadcar to win the competition, and it was another watershed moment for where the world of high-performance motoring is headed.

WOODSTOCK, UNITED KINDOM - SEPTEMBER 25: The Bentley Mulliner Bacalar seen at Salon Prive, held at Blenheim Palace. Each year some of the rarest cars are displayed on the lawns of the palace, in the UK's most exclusive Concours d'Elegance. (Photo by Martyn Lucy/Getty Images)
WOODSTOCK, UNITED KINDOM - SEPTEMBER 25: The Bentley Mulliner Bacalar seen at Salon Prive, held at Blenheim Palace. Each year some of the rarest cars are displayed on the lawns of the palace, in the UK's most exclusive Concours d'Elegance. (Photo by Martyn Lucy/Getty Images)

Like most of the luxury performance automakers in attendance at Goodwood, Bentley Motors (VOW.DE) is charting its electric future as well, planning to go all-electric by 2030. But there is still some ways to go till then, and in the meantime, the automaker must make hay while it can with its ICE (internal combustion engine) cars, especially with those models that are the most profitable - like its bespoke or custom, made-to-order cars.

That’s where Bentley’s Mulliner division comes into play. Currently the outfit at Bentley that makes customizations for its clients and limited one-offs like the Bacalar speedster, Bentley has plans to expand Mulliner to its own separate line of cars, that will sit atop the standard Bentley’s lines like the Azure or newly announced S models. Think of Mulliner as Bentley's "AMG" division at Mercedes, or BMW's "M" line.

A general view of the Bentley Motors factory in Crewe, Cheshire.   (Photo by Martin Rickett - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
A general view of the Bentley Motors factory in Crewe, Cheshire. (Photo by Martin Rickett - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

For Paul Williams, head of Mulliner and Motorsport at Bentley, it makes sense to expand the custom coachbuilding experience to more cars.

“With modern coachbuilding you use modern techniques, so we use modern carbon manufacturing technology, and on top of that we do the hand craftsmanship, so we make carbon parts, but we hand fit and hand build them to and make them into very special vehicles,” Williams said in an interview with Yahoo Finance from the Bentley factory in Crewe, England. “Modern coachbuilding is the best of both worlds — it’s the best of technology and the best of hand craftsmanship.”

With the coming EV revolution, companies like Bentley are at crossroads. Bentley sees the future is EV, but the company knows many of its customers, especially those paying large sums of money for Mulliner vehicles like the 1 of 12 Bacalar, still prefer the throaty sounds of a Bentley 12-cylinder engine. Williams though still sees an opportunity though, because EV powertrains can make the Mulliner cars even more special.

“We’ve dedicated ourselves to going electric really quickly as a brand, and we see this as a huge opportunity, and of course we have customers who love combustion; I do as well,” he says.

Bentley's EXP 100 GT Concept
Bentley's EXP 100 GT Concept

However the benefits of EVs, in Williams opinion, are undeniable.

“But when you experience an EV vehicle, and you can see what it can do, and how that can be at the same time the most incredible performance, like the car we saw at Goodwood, and the same time the most incredible luxury, the ability to be super quiet, and to enable you again with the flexibility that electrical platforms offer,” Williams said, noting it gives car manufacturers and designers the ability to customize a car even more and create something “even more special and bespoke.”

The new line of Mulliner cars will debut with the just announced Continental GT Mulliner, and the first Bentley EV will roll off the production line in Crewe in 2025.

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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