LONDON -- Bentley is on course to match or beat its last year's global vehicle sales despite closing its factory for almost two months because of the pandemic, the automaker's manufacturing boss said.
Demand has rebounded strongly in all its markets -- especially in North America and China -- Peter Bosch told Automotive News Europe, without giving numbers.
Bentley was the only Volkswagen Group brand to increase deliveries in the first half, with sales up 2.8 percent to 4,918 vehicles compared with the same period in 2019. Bentley sold 11,006 cars last year, according to company figures.
Bentley was forced to shut its plant in Crewe, England, from March 21 until May 11 as part of a wider lockdown to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
After the restart, Bentley initially built cars at half the rate prior to the plant's shutdown to balance protecting the health of its workers against keeping pace with demand.
Current production is near full capacity, Bosch said.
Bentley was able to increase output after taking steps such as installing plastic screens that allow line workers to operate closer together and implementing regular testing for COVID-19.
Bosch said the company has carried out 5,000 tests of which 91 have been positive. He said of those who tested positive, 75 percent were not displaying any symptoms.
The company said it has not experienced a single case of "chain" infection, where one worker infects another on site. "We initially said we were safer than a supermarket but we then dropped that because we are so much safer," Bosch said.
The company now plans to implement rapid testing of workers that gives results in 60 minutes instead of 24 hours.
Bentley returned to profit last year under a turnaround plan that included the renewal of its whole lineup. Bentley has been helped this year by the launch its face-lifted Bentayga SUV, which was it top-seller in 2019.
Prior to the pandemic, Bentley predicted 2020 would be a record year.
"We were going to be significantly over 2019 because of the new Bentayga," Bosch said.