And while times are challenging, the Bentley head is confident the maker has reacted in exactly the right way.
‘We recognised back in summer 2007 that something was wrong,’ he revealed. ‘GTC sales were lower in the US than we predicted – which didn’t feel right.’
While capacity constraints meant the maker was able to redivert production to other markets – thus achieving its sales record of 10,000 units – further declines in 2008 meant steps had to be taken.
‘By June 2008, we could not delay any longer. We had to cut production.’ This is the painful process that Bentley has been undertaking ever since – which has been so widely publicised in the media.
But, says McCullough, Bentley is helping dealers by doing so.
‘We always want to be in the position of making 1 car less than the market demands. It is vital for all parties that there is no oversupply. This is the only way to maintain profitability and RVs
‘It is our job to absorb the pain that this entails.’
However, the brand still has a place, he says. What’s more, he also reveals the used car side is starting to show positive signs of recovery. This could be an encouraging first step in a more general recovery.
‘We should also, by mid-2009, have our supply chain back in balance.’
Importantly, though, ‘we have not positioned our cost base on a 10k-a-year model.’ This, he says, means the business can still be profitable at any future sales level.
The challenge at the moment is to reach that level and build from there.
‘It is like driving through fog at the moment. You can only reach to what you can see.’
Thus far, though, McCullough is confident Bentley’s reactions have been correct.
EXCLUSIVE by RICHARD AUCOCK