Bentley to cut nearly a quarter of its workforce

Bentley has confirmed it is seeking to make 1,000 job cuts through a voluntary redundancy scheme, shrinking its workforce by almost a quarter as it responds to the coronavirus pandemic.

The luxury carmaker warned that it could not rule out future compulsory redundancies, as the pandemic cuts demand for cars.

Bentley, whose 4,200 workers are mainly based in Crewe, Cheshire, said it had delayed its restructuring plan from March when the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK and the government imposed lockdown, forcing it to halt production.

The company had hoped to grow its sales while restructuring, allowing it to avoid cutting jobs. However, it said this plan was “clearly derailed by the impact of the pandemic”.

Adrian Hallmark, Bentley’s chief executive, also warned that a no-deal Brexit could “compound the coronavirus disaster”, as talks continue between the UK and the EU on the trading relationship beyond 2020.

The negotiators have a self-imposed deadline at the end of June by which they will have to agree a deal, an extension beyond 31 December or another compromise. If they cannot, trade will default to World Trade Organization terms, including tariffs on car exports.

“My message to politicians is this: please don’t push us off a second cliff,” he told the Financial Times.

The Bentley job losses come a day after 2,000 redundancies were announced at Aston Martin and car dealership Lookers. Sportscar manufacturer McLaren said last week it would cut 1,200 jobs.

Bentley, which is owned by Germany’s Volkswagen, started a programme to improve productivity in 2018, which it said had brought €300m (£266m) in cost savings in 2019 and a “record performance” in the first quarter of 2020.

The company is also switching from selling internal combustion engine cars towards hybrids that also contain battery-powered motors which cut carbon dioxide emissions. The car industry is under regulatory pressure to radically cut pollution.

Bentley has also frozen recruitment, made contractors redundant and frozen pay for all remaining workers. Two-thirds of workers were furloughed at the height of the lockdown, before the factory reopened at half capacity on 11 May.

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