Firas K Kandalaft, Head of Marketing & Communications at Bentley Motors On Innovation and the Future

Lindsay Judge   |   25-12-2020

Like all industries, automotive companies have seen a turbulent year throughout 2020. But Bentley Motors is not going to let a global pandemic stop them moving forward with development and innovation. After celebrating a milestone 100th anniversary in 2019, throughout 2020 the luxury motor company has continued to launch a number of luxury motors as well as opening a new flagship showroom in the UAE.


Bentley Motors is looking to the future and sustainability is at the forefront of its mind as well as using innovation and technology to provide luxury motors that appeal to the luxury consumer while ensuring to contribute to the longevity of our planet.


To find out about recent innovations including the all-new Flying Spur and what we can expect to see going into 2021 we talk to Firas K Kandalaft, Head of Marketing & Communications at Bentley Motors



How has Bentley continued working through this year and how have you been able to connect with your clients throughout this time?


Understandably, it’s been a tough year for automotive companies. At Bentley have worked closely with our local distributor partners to ensure we can serve our customers in the safest and most efficient way possible.


We have made adjustments to our daily operations and implemented protection measures to safeguard against transmission of the virus. Since the start of social distancing requirements, retailers have also implemented a flexible, online-sales approach to minimize impact during this period



What have been some key moments for the brand in 2020 and what do we have to look forward?


In January, Bentley Emirates officially opened the doors to a brand-new flagship showroom in the heart of Abu Dhabi. The Bentley Emirates Abu Dhabi showroom caters to the growing demand from customers for our range of extraordinary cars, delivering the highest level of customer experience as expected by residents of the nation’s capital. On the product front, we have announced several exciting new Bentley models.


In March, Bentley Mulliner revealed the all-new Bacalar. The rarest two-door Bentley of the modern era, and the ultimate expression of two-seat, open-air luxury, this definitive Grand Tourer spearheads a return to coachbuilding by our Mulliner division – the oldest coachbuilder in the world.


Then in June, we announced details of the new Bentayga – the definitive luxury SUV. Bentley has built 20,000 Bentaygas since the start of production in 2016, with the Middle East establishing itself as one of the key markets for this exceptional SUV, with total sales of 2,315 units over this time. The Bentayga launched the luxury SUV benchmark, offering customers the ultimate Grand Touring experience, unrestricted by landscape or conditions.


Also, this year we had the first Middle East delivery of the all-new Flying Spur, the ultimate luxury Grand Touring sedan, which offers the perfect fusion of performance-orientated agility and exclusive four-door, limousine-style comfort.


Bentley Beyond100


In your opinion what is the future of luxury car manufacture?


We have recently outlined plans to become a global leader in sustainable luxury mobility in line with our Beyond100 strategy, which was announced on 5th November. With the promise to offer truly sustainable luxury, we will reinvent every aspect of our business to become an end-to-end carbon neutral organisation as we embark on our second century. The target is driven by a transformation programme across our entire operations and products. This includes switching our model range to offer exclusively plug-in hybrid or battery electric vehicles by 2026, and fully electric vehicles only by 2030.


The Beyond100 strategic plan is an extension of two decades of forward-thinking, innovation and achievement. Acutely aware of the responsibility to consider the company’s environmental, social and economic impact, we have transformed our 80-year-old headquarters into the UK’s single carbon-neutral luxury car factory. At the same time, we have grown to operate in more markets than ever before, 68, while creating a long-term, consistent, sustainable business model, a truly solid basis to build for a second century.


How important is sustainability at Bentley Motors and can you share with us some of the initiatives you have taken towards this topic?

Bentley sees a future driven by new technologies, new materials, new fuels and new skills, in the pursuit of a radically different luxury world. Sustainability is central to this, as we pursue our ambition to be a leader of sustainable luxury mobility.


Bentley believes its method to innovation is shaped through equalization of conservation of the world and the self while focusing on an instinctive invention that is essentially linked to sustainability.


Unveiled last year to celebrate Bentley’s centenary, the all-electric Bentley EXP 100 GT concept exemplifies this new approach by embracing sustainability through innovations that enhance the wellbeing of both the occupants and the wider world. Purified air and curated light, sounds and even smells make the cabin an inspiring environment, while a range of collaborations with like-minded manufacturers has unlocked new sustainable solutions for both materials and drivetrain.


For example, we used Copper Infused Riverwood, a sustainable wood from naturally fallen trees in the cabin. We partnered with Hand and Lock, a London-based embroidery company that employed exquisite, traditional techniques for the door panels, as well as with Bridge of Weir Leather of Scotland, who worked with specifically selected, locally sourced hides for Bentley to create a soft, natural leather enhanced by its environment. Finally, in an exclusive collaboration, we used the by-products of grape-making to create the future of luxury eco-materials, creating a leather-like seating material which is 100 per cent bio-based.


Of course, in line with our Beyond100 vision, we have spoken openly about our ambition to switch to full electric Bentleys only by 2030, and this focus is demonstrated by our involvement with projects such as the OCTOPUS research study, which promises to transform electric vehicle powertrains, utilising a fully integrated, free from rare-earth magnet e-axle that supports electric vehicle architectures.


Bentley Beyond100


What can you tell us about the new Flying Spur and the innovation that has gone into this car?


This new model really raises the bar for luxury cars, offering a unique combination of limousine luxury and sports sedan performance, while blending bold new road presence with world-leading interior quality and design, plus cutting-edge customer-focused technology.


Thanks to a totally new and advanced aluminium and composite chassis, the all-new Flying Spur is a technological tour-de-force. Electronic All-Wheel Steering is used for the first time in a Bentley, combining with Active All-Wheel Drive and Bentley Dynamic Ride – the world’s first 48V electric anti-roll system – to deliver phenomenal handling and ride.


Further cutting-edge technologies that combine to make the Flying Spur’s cabin the most modern, innovative and luxurious place to travel in include an HD digital instrument panel display, Bentley’s unique rotating centre console with choice of 12.3 inch digital touchscreen, beautiful analogue dials or digital detoxifying veneer, and the remote control touch screen for rear passengers. Three-dimensional diamond-quilted leather door inserts are another automotive world-first.


What can you tell us about new technology at Bentley, particularly with this car and how it’s enhancing your capability?


The Flying Spur, represents the brand’s forward-looking approach to technology, blending ease of use with exquisite design and functionality.


Such technological improvement is exemplified by the Flying Spur’s completely new electrical system and the reduction in electrical consumption resulting in the use of only one 12W battery instead of two.


The all-new Flying Spur leads the way in the luxury car segment for state-of-the-art technology. Driver assistance systems include a Night Vision infra-red camera, Traffic Assist, Blind Sport Warning and a Head-Up Display. A raft of Advanced Connectivity features, including an integrated Wi-Fi hotspot, help keep the driver in touch with a range of real-time functions and services.


Further Driver Assistance Systems are available to help the driver in a variety of situations. The Top View Camera gives an ingenious, overhead view of the car and its immediate surroundings via the image processing of pictures provided by four different cameras around the car.


Bentley Flying Spur


What can you tell us about customization with this car and why do you think it’s important to offer such options to your customers?


The new Flying Spur pushes the existing boundaries of refinement and attention to detail to create the finest super-luxury sports sedan ever built. There is nothing like it on the market.


Yet for ultimate personalization, Bentley’s personal commissioning department, Mulliner is ready to respond to the requirements of our most discerning customers, with services ranging from monogrammed upholstery to elaborate tailored body modifications. An almost limitless spectrum of paint colours, leather hides, wood veneers and other options will suit all tastes and preferences. All of this is particularly important in the Middle East, where many of our customers seek to express their individuality in a very personal way when they buy a Bentley.


As an example of the remarkable attention to detail, within the cabin there are two new technical finishes in lieu of contemporary wood veneers – a high gloss carbon fibre and a stunning ‘Côtes de Genève’ finish, inspired by the precision-machined dust-catching treatment used by the finest watches. The new Flying Spur can be specified in a four-seat configuration, featuring 115m of hand cross-stitching, and with veneered inserts for the rear doors and electrically operated picnic tables mounted in the rear of the front seats.


Additionally, there are a number of exclusive, hand-picked Mulliner-prepared features, such as Lofted Diamond Leather Quilting upholstery for seats with unique Three-dimensional Diamond Leather door inserts; an exclusive Mulliner 22” wheel in two finishes; embroidered wings to all seats, sports pedals and jewelled-finish fuel filler and oil caps.  The result is a car that delivers luxury on a new level; a rarity on a different scale.


Can you tell us a little about the new touch Screen Remote system?


The multi-functional Touch Screen Remote affords rear seat occupants unprecedented control over the car’s extensive range of luxury features, redefining precision control over passenger comfort.


Encapsulating the remarkable attention to detail and use of latest generation technology that defines the user experience of the Flying Spur’s handcrafted cabin, the Touch Screen Remote (TSR) is as intuitive as it is beautiful, finished in polished metal embellished with diamond knurling.


At the touch of a button, the Remote deploys itself from atop the rear centre console, held in place by integrated magnets, ready to be utilised by the rear seat passengers.


The handheld Remote is a powerful computing device in its own right, with performance-driven by a four-core processor and 1GB of onboard RAM. A pin-sharp 1280 x 720-pixel display forms the interface, and an integrated array of cutting-edge sensors including a three-axis accelerometer and a proximity sensor combine with haptic feedback to make the TSR easy and intuitive to use.




With a rich legacy but increasing pressures to move forward into the future – how does Bentley balance these two ensure it is still appealing to both old and new customers?


Bentley’s future designs are rooted in a clear idea of what makes the brand unique. It’s the beauty of a fantastic exterior concealing innovations and craftsmanship that push the product itself forward. It’s this combination of technology and aesthetics that, in the end, makes Bentley extraordinary.


All these influences need to be harnessed with genuine respect for the Bentley brand, not least the design hallmarks that have identified its cars for almost 100 years. With our new Beyond100 strategic vision, we are addressing these challenges head-on, in a way that will ensure the brand’s success for the next 100 years.


How would you sum up the Bentley customer of today?


When it comes to catering to the tastes of the Middle East, customers here really know and appreciate what they want. They constantly seek the ultimate in personalisation, whether that be paintwork, the interiors or a sophisticated design that they can identify with.


We are finding that sustainability is becoming increasingly important to customers, and there has been a pronounced shift in recent years towards this subject. Our customers feel an increasing sense of responsibility with regards to decreasing their carbon footprint, and this is shaping their behaviours and values. Our customers are becoming more values-driven, and they will align or associate with brands who hold the same values as they do.


As a company, we believe we are very much in tune with these customers. The demographics of our customer base is changing. As we look to 2030, and the High Net Worth Individuals, 60 per cent of them will be under the age of 40, and 35 per cent will be women. Overall, we are in an excellent position to engage with our customer base.


In your opinion what is something that will change in the industry in the coming years?


A key element will relate to how the industry will change by redefining digitalisation. At Bentley, we are building a network of connected services that are individual to the customer, achieved through product visualisation, co-creation and a digital journey. This will deliver a truly 360 degree, curated customer experience.


What can we expect to see from Bentley moving into 2021?


As we look into 2021 and beyond, we aim to become the world’s benchmark luxury car business, financially resilient and recession-proof. The challenging economic situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in Bentley undertaking its biggest change programme in a century. This platform will create a sustainable, consistently profitable business model for the next 100 years.


From a product perspective, and in line with our Beyond100 strategy, we are focused on becoming a global leader in sustainable luxury mobility. Ultimately, every model line will be offered with the option of a hybrid variant by 2023, with Bentley’s first pure electric model to be launched in 2025. By 2026, we will switch our model range to offer exclusively plug-in hybrid or battery electric vehicles by 2026, and then full electric vehicles only by 2030.