Bentley Continental GT: the car that saved the company
You will likely never have heard of Hans-Joachim Rotherpieler, but if you want an idea of just how bad things were at Bentley at the time Volkswagen bought it in 1998, he provides a rare and useful insight.
He was the man VW parachuted into Crewe to look after quality and production. I once asked him for his impressions after his first factory tour, and his words did not need interpretation: “I thought we should close the place down.”
Of course I could be writing this piece about the 1982 Bentley Mulsanne Turbo, the first Bentley in years to be anything other than a badge-engineered Rolls-Royce. That car turned around Bentley’s fortunes so dramatically that by the time VW stepped forward, the firm was outselling Rolls by ten to one.
But sales were still miniscule, quality still variable and the cars more charming than competitive in the marketplace. Volkswagen’s vision for the company was…