Bentley has a long and complicated history. Up until the late 1990s, a lot of its problem was a lack of separation from Rolls-Royce that suggested it was a lesser brand. By the time Volkswagen bought Bentley in 1998, it was in bad shape. The Crewe factory had around 1,500 workers, and production and sales figures each year were around 1,000 units.
Immediately, Volkswagen invested a reported $2 billion into reviving Bentley, and the first new car designed and built under Volkswagen’s new stewardship was the twin-turbo 6.0-liter W12 engined 2003 Continental GT. It was the first Bentley built using mass production manufacturing techniques, but the quality wasn’t lowered. If anything, the Continental was better built as well as being quicker to assemble. However, demand was so high that the Crewe factory’s ceiling of 9,500 vehicles per year couldn’t handle the new demand for Bentley cars. The four-door version, the Flying Spur, had to be built in Germany next to Volkswagen’s ill-fated Pheaton. Now, the Continental GT is in its third generation, and Bentley is a luxury marque that’s as in-demand as it ever has been.