Bentley’s personal touch retains discerning clients
Bentley’s Mulliner factory, in the small English town of Crewe, is more akin to a medieval guild than a 21st-century car plant. Instead of robots and assembly lines, you will find hammers, needles and thread.
Mulliner is the luxury car manufacturer’s customization unit for clients who want their cars highly bespoke. About half of the approximately 500 Bentleys built each year in the UK get the Mulliner treatment. “If you have customers with enough resources and imagination and you combine that with our skills, you can get a very special car,” says Bentley Mulliner Director Sam Graham.
If you have customers with enough resources and imagination and you combine that with our skills, you can get a very special car.
Bentley says that the paradox of the car is that although it is instantly recognizable, it takes time and effort to hand-build each one. This is why the Mulliner facility houses coach builders, cabinetmakers, coppersmiths, sheet-metal fabricators and electricians. The workshop has its own wood mill and wood shop, a trim shop to hand stitch and cut leather, and a steel-fabrication area.
Such craftsmanship takes time (Bentley has the slowest production line in the world) but customers in the UAE don’t have to travel to England to develop their dream car. Bentley’s online configurator enables users to visualise and build their own design. Select from a diverse range of paints, leather, veneers and metal models to create a virtual prototype of your own bespoke vehicle. The configurator even allows you to embroider a custom message in the treadplate and four headrests. Once you’ve been inspired, customers can make an appointment in their nearest Bentley showroom in the UAE- two in Dubai and the newly opened showroom in Abu Dhabi- to make your prototype a reality.
The company provides customers with a photo album when they receive their cars, including shots of each part of their autos’ manufacturing process, from shell to final product. Mulliner keeps close records of each vehicle’s assembly, helping the production workers detect whether any flaws were made and at which point. In addition to the photo album, customers receive a book detailing how specialized parts work. This is done so that body and repair shops throughout the world can figure out how Mulliner workers seamlessly fitted a DVD player into the rear headrest, or how the folding solid wood tables unfurl. If a car has special problems that can’t be solved locally, Bentley dispatches an engineer to repair it.
When it comes to price, it’s not easy to determine the cost of a bespoke model, as there is no “standard Bentley.” So price is on application.
Graham once said the motor industry’s natural instinct is to “build as many cars as possible with as few variations as possible. That is old-fashioned mass-production common sense. But we don’t work by these rules.”