LONDON -- Bentley will embark on its "biggest product offensive" to date, launching to launch five full-electric cars in five years starting in 2025.
The first full-EV will be introduced in late 2025 and it will create a fifth product line, CEO Adrian Hallmark said during an online presentation on Wednesday.
The new car will "create and shape a segment," Hallmark said, without giving more detail. "The first BEV is a game changer," he said.
The battery-electric cars that follow will replace Bentley's existing lineup starting in 2026, leading up to the automaker's plan to sell only full-electric cars by 2030. “The current cars will be converted to electric versions," Hallmark said.
Bentley will likely start with the Bentayga SUV, its best-seller. Bentley also sells the Flying Spur sedan, Continental GT coupe and Continental GT convertible.
Bentley said on Wednesday that it will invest 2.5 billion pounds ($3.36 billion) over the next 10 years as part of its plan to electrify, including building a new plant at its headquarters in Crewe, England, for its first full-electric car.
The new facility will use automated guided vehicles to move bodies around rather than a traditional conveyor belt, Bentley head of manufacturing, Peter Bosch, said. "It will give us the ultimate flexibility in volume," Bosch said.
Using automated vehicles is preferred by low-volume manufacturers they allow assembly stations to be skipped for different variants and they require a lower capital expenditure than a traditional assembly line.
Bentley, which is owned by Volkswagen Group, said the new investment will be self-funded from its profits, which are expected to be record breaking after the brand sold a record 14,659 cars in 2021. The automaker will release its 2021 financial results in March.
The investment will need to pay for a complete overhaul of product development and manufacturing, including switching to more software defined cars, incorporating autonomous capabilities and "digitizing the value chain" Jan-Henrik Lafrentz, Bentley’s chief financial officer, said.
"The challenge is really huge in front of us”, Lafrentz said. Bentley will not seek UK government funding to help pay for its transformation, he said.
Ultraluxury automakers have been slower to move to electrification and have long said the that pure electric technology is not yet ready to satisfy the demands of their customers. The 2025 date is far enough away that it "leaves us time to make sure our customers have a truly luxurious experience," Bentley’s new head of sales, Alain Favey said.
The first ultraluxury full-electric car will come from UK rival Rolls-Royce, which will launch its first full-electric car, the Spectre coupe, in 2023, two years before Bentley. Ferrari will launch its first full-electric car in 2025, while Lamborghini has said its first full-EV will appear by 2030.