You can write it off as another casualty of the SUV craze

There was a time when large, overly luxurious sedans were the cream of the crop for Bentley. Back when the Arnage was a thing, for example, Bentley was able to move 1,200 examples per year. It doesn’t sound like a lot when compared to mainstream vehicles, but for a company like Bentley that does so much by hand, that’s a lot. The Mulsanne was once a big deal too, but it has officially been canceled indefinitely with the Mulsanne 6.75 Edition – limited to just 30 examples – being the final Mulsanne to ever be produced. So, were sales of the Mulsanne really so bad Bentley had to cancel it altogether? Well, here’s the full story behind the demise of the Bentley Mulsanne.

Why Was The Bentley Mulsanne Canceled?

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It seems strange that a company like Bentley would be killing off its flagship sedan but, the truth is that sales were so bad that it really wasn’t much of a flagship anymore. In an interview between Bentley CEO, Adrian Hallmark, and Top Gear, the truth behind the Bentley Mulsanne has finally been exposed.

In the days of the Arnage, we sold 1,200 a year. Since then the number of high-net-worth individuals in the world has tripled, but the number of Mulsannes sold last year was now only 500-ish

Oddly enough, despite the fact that the Mulsanne is being canceled for dismal sales, the company still sold more examples of it than Rolls-Royce sold of the Phantom. According to Hallmark, it boils down to changes in the industry first and foremost:

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”It’s a real symbol of changes in the industry. The big sedan segment has been the foundation of Bentley for more than 100 years, but the volume has regressed – even though we sell more than the [Rolls-Royce] Phantom.”

The real kicker here is that Bentley needs to take part of the blame for the Mulsanne’s demise. See, sales of the Mulsanne have dropped so poorly because people are more interested in SUVs than they are sedans. Bentley jumped on that bandwagon with the Bentayga, the brand’s first SUV. One could argue, however, that the only reason the Mulsanne has fallen so short in recent years is because people had the choice of buying an SUV. Today, Hallmark admits that nearly half of Bentley’s sales fall on the shoulders of the Bentayga.

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”About 90 percent of the sales are in the US and China. It’s older buyers in the US and Europe versus younger buyers in China. But they would mostly rather have SUVs.”
Bentley Mulsanne specifications
Bentley Mulsanne Bentley Mulsanne Speed
Engine 6.75-liter twin-turbo V-8 6.75-liter twin-turbo V-8
Displacement 6,752 cc 6,752 cc
Power 505 HP @ 4,000 RPM 530 HP @ 4,000 RPM
Torque 752 LB-FT @ 1,750 RPM 811LB-FT @ 1,750 RPM
0 to 60 mph 5.1 seconds 4.8 seconds
0 to 100 mph 11.6 seconds 11.1 seconds
Top Speed 184 mph 190 mph

Will There Be a Replacement For the Bentley Mulsanne?

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Like a lot of other automakers out there, from mainstream companies like Ford, Chevy, Skoda, and Volkswagen to super high-end automakers like Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, and Lamborghini, Bentley is being forced to rethink its strategy. So, when Top Gear asked Hallmark about whether or not there would be a direct replacement for the Mulsanne, he was forced to admit that it’s just not a viable business plan.

”The segment is in critical decline. If we replace it, we still have to think about all the legislation for cyber-security, safety, and emissions. It means we just wouldn’t get payback. It’s as brutal as that.”
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For now, the new Flying Spur will wear the crown as Bentley’s flagship sedan, but even Hallmark has to admit that it doesn’t serve well as a direct replacement. “No, it doesn’t 100 percent replace the Mulsanne. It outsells the Mulsanne six to one. And although the Flying Spur with the black pack is very dynamic, with the four-seat layout and all the chrome options, it’s more refined than anything we have ever built.”

For what it’s worth, some 400 hours went into building each and every Mulsanne, and now that it has been put to the shelf to die, the Mulliner division will take over the factory space that was once lively with Mulsanne production.

What Will Bentley’s Next New Car Be?

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At this point, it’s hard to say what Bentley’s next move will be. However, with the Mulsanne now discontinued, the company only has three base models – the Flying Spur, the Continental, and the Bentayga. Both the Flying Spur and Continental have been recently updated, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Bentayga was scheduled to receive a facelift in the next year or two. Outside of that, I suspect that we’ll see a handful of custom-built cars from Mulliner, like the new Continental GT Mulliner Convertible or the recently revealed Bentley Mulliner Bacalar, the latter of which will be produced in just 12 examples.

At this point, Bentley has a big decision to make. Will it focus on its rather small lineup and let Mulliner bring in heaps of money by producing very limited-run custom cars. On the other hand, Bentley has seen huge success with the Bentayga. There’s a possibility that the company would be in hot water if it hadn’t introduced the SUV, so it wouldn’t be totally surprising if Bentley crawled even further onto the SUV wagon and came up with a second smaller (or larger) SUV to complement the Bentayga. One thing is for sure – you probably won’t see another all-new sedan cruise onto Bentley’s lineup anytime soon. In fact, there’s a good chance that a decade from now, Bentley could produce nothing but SUVs. It sounds crazy, but that’s a very real possibility.

Source: Top Gear

Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topsped.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read More
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