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Younger drivers adding vigor to Bentley brand

By LI FUSHENG | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-27 10:37
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Kim Airey, managing director of Bentley Motors Chinese Mainland, Hong Kong and Macao, with a Bentley Bentayga at the Guangzhou auto show, which concluded on Friday. CHINA DAILY

Bentley is going "contemporary and current" in China as the British luxury carmaker's customers in the country are the youngest and have a growing demand for personalization, said a senior company executive.

"We spoke about China having some of the youngest customers around the world. They just keep getting younger," said Kim Airey, managing director of Bentley Motors Chinese Mainland, Hong Kong and Macao.

"And you can see that this customer base is turning up with increasing demands for personalization and for, I would say, expression."

Airey said some popular colors, like black and white, are gradually becoming out of favor and people are now picking colors across the palette.

Examples are everywhere at its booth at the just concluded Guangzhou auto show. The Bentayga Extended Wheelbase Mulliner has a Havana paint finish and an interior color combination of Newmarket Tan and Burnt Oak, while the Continental GT has Light Windsor Blue paint and features the interior colors of Linen and Brunel.

"The bit where it is truly emotional and expressive is through color, what you do with the trim, what you do with stitching, what you do with veneers, how you put that together," said Airey.

Bentley is also updating its vehicles with digital improvements and refinements, including increased connectivity functionality, remote parking through the app, as well as the driver's assistance system.

The brand is presenting itself in a new way as well, ranging from locations it chooses for events to its corporate identity, all of which keep it fresh and contemporary.

"We're not just doing the same old issues again and again and again and I think it keeps us fresh and interesting as a brand, and young people will be drawn to it," said Airey.

He said Bentley is optimistic about the long-term growth potential in China despite changes in the short term. He added that the market is a little bit lower than where it would want it to be, but Bentley is happy with its performance.

"In the long run I think it's only going to grow. I don't think it's reached its limit or its full potential. China is generating wealth and millionaires at a phenomenal rate.

"We just need to adapt our business accordingly and make sure that we remain appealing to those customers who are always looking for the best of what's available," said Airey.

When asked about whether there will emerge local luxury vehicle brands in China, Airey said it takes time to build credibility and win acclaim from a large group of people in a wider world.

"Sure — but I don't think it comes very quickly. If you look at all of the luxury brands, they've all been around for a long time," he said.

He went on to explain that luxury is different from a high price tag — some Chinese brands have models priced over 1 million yuan — and from the content of technology, represented by new energy vehicle startups.

"Europe has always been the center of luxury, but that doesn't mean that all luxury must come from Europe in that sense.

"If you look at China's history and you go back to the emperors, China was doing luxury goods in its own right in that particular sense. Some of those crafts and skills still exist," said Airey.

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