British luxury carmaker Bentley to cut quarter of workforce

(Reuters) – British luxury carmaker Bentley Motors said on Friday it plans to shed up to 1,000 jobs, nearly a quarter of its workforce, adding to the gloom in the sector hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The redundancies at the Volkswagen-owned (VOWG_p.DE) Bentley brand follow cuts, totalling up to 2,000 jobs, announced on Thursday at luxury rival Aston Martin (AML.L) and at car dealership Lookers (LOOK.L).

The 100-year old Bentley, which has a total workforce of 4,200, said it was offering voluntary redundancy terms but could not rule out compulsory redundancies.

“This is a necessary step that we have to take to safeguard the jobs of the vast majority who will remain, and deliver a sustainable business model for the future,” said chairman and chief executive Adrian Hallmark.

“COVID-19 has not been the cause of this measure but a hastener.”

Bentley makes most of its cars in Crewe, north west England. The site reopened on May 11, seven weeks after it shut due to the coronavirus outbreak, making it one of the first automakers to resume production in Britain.

The firm faces hundreds of millions of pounds of deferred or lost revenue from the plant closure and reduced output due to the pandemic.

The job losses form part of Bentley’s “Beyond100” strategy that will see it accelerate the development of electrified models.

It is targeting for every model it offers to have the option of a hybrid variant by 2023, and its first pure electric model to be launched in 2026.

British new car sales tumbled by an annual 89% in May, only slightly less negative than April’s record 97% collapse, as car dealerships remained shuttered by the lockdown, industry data showed on Thursday.

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