Bentley will stop auto production at its British factory from the end of Friday for four weeks concerning the coronavirus outbreak, one of the final automakers in Britain to declare such plans.
Parent company Volkswagen stated on Tuesday it would be stopping output at plants throughout Europe as the pandemic hits sales and disrupts supply chains, but Bentley’s northern English site in Crewe has kept operations so far.
The luxury brand, that makes around 11,000 vehicles annually and employs approximately 4,500 people, stated the move was to safeguard the health of its workforce and because of accelerating constraints on activity and decreasing demand in some markets.
The factory should restart on April 20, the company’s boss Adrian Hallmark informed Reuters, just as the company had returned to profitability last year after a difficult 2018.
“We were all set up for a gangbusters 2020, the first two months of the year have been very strong … and then the coronavirus hits us,” he stated.
“Any ideas of glory and big profits that we had have been tempered significantly but having stated that, we really don’t know how it’s going to play out.”
The brand stated it expected to see a decrease in sales in every market where the coronavirus is taking hold, and in China demand reduced 50% against expectations last month but in March was getting back to the expected level.
The British government has asked automakers if they could help with building ventilators.
“It’s been a very high level question… and the question was: we’ve got 1,000 engineers – could we dedicate a number of them with requisite skills and experience to be able to help to do some of the development work and industrial engineering…?” stated Hallmark.
He likened the idea about using Bentley’s factory to Britain’s World War Two effort by creating engines for its fighter planes.
“I like to remember that in just two years, the Spitfire engine… went from 1,500 to 2,700 horsepower,” he stated.
“When needs must, we can perform and I’m sure the same would be true for ventilators … if we were provided the right brief and opportunity to do so.”