Bentley celebrates 75 years of production in Crewe – over 197k cars made by hand; now makes 85 cars daily


Bentley Motors is celebrating its 75th anniversary of car production in Crewe. To commemorate the milestone, the automaker displayed the Mark V in a glass box right outside the Pyms Lane factory. The Mark V was the last car to be built at its Derby plant. Its successor, the Mark VI, became the first car to be produced at Crewe.

In the 75-year period, Bentley produced 197,086 cars, the bulk of which were built by hand. That figure also accounts for 97% of all Bentley cars ever produced. Of that, 38,933 were made before modern examples like the Continental GT and Bentayga were introduced, which speaks to how quickly the automaker ramped up production after the turn of the century.

According to Bentley, approximately 84% of all the cars it produced in Crewe are still on the road today. The plant now produces a record 85 cars a day, equivalent to a month’s output from 20 years prior.

Company board member Peter Bosch said: “For 75 years, Crewe has been synonymous with luxury car manufacturing – a global showcase of craftsmanship and quality. In that time, our colleagues have produced some of the world’s most iconic and desirable products, including cars for global royalty and unique personal commissions.”

“Beyond bricks and mortar, this milestone pays homage to the colleagues who have built our brand in Crewe, and I’d like to express my thanks and admiration for their dedication over three quarters of a century,” he added.

“With our most recent investment we have transformed our historic factory into a collaborative modern campus; a carbon-neutral, innovative, low environmental impact site that retains the best of our heritage while looking strongly to the future. In many factory areas, modern, digitised production systems complement traditional craftsmanship skills employed on our cars since 1946.”

While Bentley’s history dates back 102 years (to 1919), the Crewe factory that builds Bentleys only came into the picture in 1938. Prior to that, the factory was used to manufacture Merlin aeroplane engines. At the time, Bentley was owned by Rolls-Royce Limited, and it was making aeroplane engines for the war.

Once the war was over, the factory was retooled for car production. As mentioned above, the first car to roll off the plant was the Bentley Mark VI, and it was the first model to be offered with a pressed-steel body shell as standard.

The Mark VI was powered by a 4.3 litre straight six engine, though a bored 4.6 litre version was added in 1951. Coachbuilt cars were still available, but the Mark VI signalled the dawn of a new era in Bentley car production and became one of the marque’s biggest-selling cars in history. It later developed the R-Type Continental, Turbo R, Arnage and Azure (pictured below).

How or when did the automaker’s production numbers skyrocket, you ask? Well, it turns out that the Volkswagen Group was the catalyst. When VW bought Bentley in 1998, it immediately dumped £500,000 to modernise the Crewe factory. The figure is separate from the US$2 billion investment used to turn the Bentley around.

As Peter Bosch had said, the Crewe factory is now fully carbon neutral, making it the first luxury auto brand in the world to achieve such a feat. Bentley will be opening a new Engineering Test Centre and R&D building in the coming weeks to further support its electrification ambitions. It wants to be a fully end-to-end carbon neutral company by 2030, with the Crewe factory being climate positive thereafter.

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