RAC Cars News


Who Drives A Bentley?

By raccars Published

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It's trite but also true to say that change is inevitable. Nowhere is this more evident than at Rolls-Royce or Bentley, those former bastions of the traditional British upper classes. Former because these days, Bentley and Rolls-Royce are distinctly more proletariat - even if their prices aren't.

Bentley is now part of the VW Group and BMW owns Rolls-Royce, although arguably, this is not why the brands' images have changed. That's more to do with a massive cultural shift. Even recently, the average Rolls-Royce owner was Brideshead-esque, but today it's more about the bank account than the breeding. Rolls and Bentley used to design their cars around the decor of the average country house, whereas today, they take their inspiration from Dubai hotels and nightclubs.

The international super wealthy are now the targets of Bentley and Rolls-Royce's advertising - footballers, dotcom giants, Gulf princes and Hollywood actors. The result is that Rolls-Royce has just enjoyed its most successful year of sales ever and Bentley sales have increased tenfold since joining the VW Group. A whole new demographic has emerged for the brand, as demonstrated by a study showing that 85% of Continental buyers are now first time Bentley customers. In design terms, it's no longer about discreet elegance but ever more outrageous personalisation options.

By contrast, and as a direct counterpoint to the rise of vulgarity, a sort of inverse snobbery has arisen. People now state with pride that they drive a Daihatsu or a Toyota Yaris as proof of their lack of materialism. The 'normcore' movement has arisen, praising the mundane, the banal and the bland rather than the bling.

As a driver's choice of car has always been said to make a statement about their personality and their circumstances in life, these changes are having a huge impact upon the auto industry. It's not all brand new - it's been a few decades since James Bond thrust Aston Martin firmly into popular culture, while Jay Gatsby famously drove a Rolls-Royce. In fact, the James Bond of the Fleming novels drove a Bentley - was this the start of the dumbing down?

No longer does your ownership of one of these mean you are aristocratic or 'upper class.' It does, however, make a very strong statement that you have a fat bank account and now, rather than discreetly proclaiming good taste, actually does the opposite. Which car brand will take the opportunity to jump into the gap and become the favourite of the more modest wealthy?

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