Ajay Dilawri and Michael Winkler.

Bentley Motors President and CEO Michael Winkler

Brand horsepower.

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Michael Winkler paid a visit to Vancouver recently, for the auspicious unveiling of the Bentley Bentayga SUV. The event was long-awaited, and as president and CEO of Bentley Motors Inc., Winkler seemed very happy indeed to be in town, with Dilawri Group president Ajay Dilawri present to greet assembled guests and enjoy the evening.

Winkler answered a few questions, and shed some light on the company’s goals. “Bentley is a leader and an innovator, and as such, aims to set the benchmark for modern luxury,” he says. “The founder of Bentley, W.O. Bentley, is quoted as saying that the marque is one that produces ‘a fast car, a good car, the best in its class,’ and that simple quote—made nearly a century ago—still guides our actions today.” The car is meant to be driven, and will meet or exceed the most discerning handler’s expectations in terms of performance, but of course also in comfort and style. It is not merely a matter of building a great car, but, as Winkler explains, “Bentley vehicles are instantly recognizable. Though the essential designs have evolved over time, there are signature details, such as the matrix grill, the iconic round headlamps, and the use of knurling as a feature.”

This is true all over the world. In North America, the market can be said to be maturing somewhat, understanding high levels of luxury better than ever before, but Winkler explains that “the North American market is very important to Bentley. I hesitate to use the word ‘maturing,’ because it has the connotation of lacking growth. The U.S. and Canada represent more than a quarter of Bentley’s global sales, and that will continue for as far out as I can see.” And the Bentley Bentayga will surely only add to this success. “Just to give you sense of the momentum that Bentley has, we will close the 2015 calendar year and record over 10,000 sales globally,” Winkler continues. “That’s the third year in a row of breaking that level. By 2025, Bentley should be selling at least 20,000 vehicles, with the U.S. and Canada continuing to contribute at or above the current rate.”

Are there challenges on the road ahead? Winkler seems to think so, but his company expects to meet them well. “We want to make Bentley the most aspirational luxury brand in the Americas,” he says. “You’ll notice that I didn’t say, ‘the most aspirational luxury auto brand.’ Bentley is a luxury brand. We are a brand driven to deliver luxury and performance, and we happen to do that by designing, engineering, and manufacturing the finest automobiles in the world. The brand will continue to grow globally.” The company recently opened showrooms in Morocco and Vietnam, further rising Bentley’s presence in markets around the world.

As the evening winds down, and Winkler enjoys a conversation with Dilawri about how exciting the advent of the Bentayga is for the Vancouver market, it seems clear enough he is ready to back up his words with real performance—at the boutique as well as on the road.

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January 22, 2016