I have to say that I was taken aback by the whole experience. I thought Crewe was a place you went through on the train. What I didn’t expect was a factory building some of the best quality cars that money can buy on the entire planet!
Bentley have heritage but suffered badly through recessions. At one point they had just 1500 employees – today that number is 4,000. Unlike the Toyota factory in Burnaston, there are people here. Lots of them. And people who have a passion for what they are building. During our three hour tour we spoke to a few of the teams building the cars – this wasn’t staged – they were genuinely passionate about what they do; they were really keen to show us what they did – and the lengths they go to.
These are expensive cars (think £115,00 upwards) but there is a reason for this. An Bentley Continental takes 100 man hours to build – the Mulsanne takes 600 hours. Virtually everything is hand finished – varnishing the woods is robotically done, but is still hand polished. A steering wheel takes 15 hours to hand stitch!
What was really fascinating was trying to work out the logistics of the production line. On the Continental lone it shifts stations every nine minutes, on the Mulsanne line it is one hour! And at each station the components being added are all logged and computer controlled. Parts which started life together (such as the wood inlays) are sent apart to different build elements, but then come back together for a perfect match.
It was a fantastic experience – and I was seriously impressed. Manufacturing is definitely not dead – and 8,500 lovingly crafted cars a year – is testament to that.
PS My fellow blogger Jackie Sadek will no doubt think that I’m after a freebie. This would be shallow. But true. Please Mr Bentley – can I borrow one for a few weeks?