Bentley Sales Declined Because the Rich Felt Bad About Showing Off Last Year: CEO

Bentley sales dipped 11% in 2023. Its CEO’s explanation: “emotional sensitivity.”

byChris Tsui|


Ultra-luxury automaker Bentley sold fewer cars and made less money in 2023 than it did in 2022. In addition to a weak economy and high interest rates, the company's CEO offered a very interesting third reason as to why this happened that sounds a whole lot like him saying the quiet part out loud.

As reported by Reuters, Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark told the press, "We had an uneven performance for the first time in about four years. Even though our customers can still afford our cars... there was a level of emotional sensitivity that slowed down demand."

I'd like to take a moment to recognize the patent hilarity of Bentley's CEO acknowledging the premise of "emotional sensitivity" being a cause of lower Bentley sales on an earnings call. Does emotional insensitivity equate to higher Bentley sales??

In any case, we were extremely curious as to what exactly Hallmark meant by "emotional sensitivity," so I reached out to Bentley and a company spokesperson replied, "It’s caution showing displays of wealth in some markets, China, U.K., that are experiencing continued economic and political difficulty."

How I see it: poor people are suffering and the rich can no longer socially afford to be seen in a Bentley anymore, even though they financially 100% can. In a press release, Bentley reports 13,560 cars sold in 2023, down 11% from 2022. This translates to 13 and 17% dips in year-over-year revenue ($3.2 billion) and operating profit ($644.7 million), respectively.

In the same press release, however, the company discloses a healthy operating profit "driven by positive mix effects from higher specification derivatives" like Azure, S, and Speed models which accounted for 70% of all sales, up from a paltry 30% the year prior. In other words, the overall sales count may have gone down, but the cars Bentley did sell were higher-end and netted more money. Using Hallmark's logic, one can only assume that this is because "emotional sensitivity" only really applied to the base Bentayga-driving mildly wealthy and that the custom W12 Azure-buying set—i.e. the folks who really couldn't give a shit—indeed did not give a shit.

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