British automaker Bentley and the flourishing emirate of Qatar have one particular ambition in common: to shape the future without losing sight of their own tradition. The Persian Gulf state and the luxury brand are modernizing their rich heritage with extensive know-how and loving attention to detail.
Anyone looking out over the bay from the old dhow port of Doha can see the mighty skyline of Qatar’s capital on the other side – a place where the world’s best architects have made their visions of 21st century buildings reality. The symbiosis of tradition and modernity is seldom as striking as it is here. The small emirate, where just half a century ago, pearl divers and Bedouins set the pace of life, is now heading at full speed to the future. Nonetheless, the Qataris do not forget their roots: modern museums celebrate Islamic art and the spectacular Al Shaqab equestrian center is the pride of the horse-loving nation. And even dhows – traditional, elaborately decorated Arab cargo sailing vessels – are still being crafted.
In the meantime, the four-lane Corniche waterfront promenade is teeming with traffic. In January, the world’s leading carmakers come together for the Qatar Motor Show. The country has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world and is an important market, especially for Bentley and other producers of luxury vehicles. The time-honored brand has maintained a presence in Qatar since 1979, and the country is Bentley’s third-largest market in the Middle East. At present, demand is especially high for the top-of-the-range Mulsanne1 and the Bentley Continental Flying Spur2. In 2011, one in eight Bentleys sold worldwide was registered in this region. Qatari buyers are very much taken with the unique blend of traditional workmanship and state-of-the-art technology, which is typical of both the Bentley brand and their own country.
“Our traditional brand values and exceptional attention to detail will continue long into the future”, Bentley CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer explains, adding: “When it comes to leather and woodworking, we are the center of excellence within the Group. We attach great importance to the interaction between craftsmanship, technical expertise and state-of-the-art technology.” This becomes evident if we compare the large eight-cylinder engine – Bentley’s most traditional power unit – in the latest Mulsanne with the original version of the same engine from 1959. The modern twin-turbocharged V8 engine delivers 512 PS, while Bentley’s original produced only 200 PS. Fuel consumption is now only 51 percent of what it once was and emissions have been reduced by as much as 99 percent.
It goes without saying that innovative drive technologies feature prominently in Wolfgang Dürheimer’s vision for the future. “At the beginning of this year, we introduced two new Continental V8 models3. These have outstanding fuel efficiency and CO2 emission performance thanks to a range of new technologies including state-of-the-art cylinder deactivation – pioneered in the Bentley Mulsanne. Combustion engines will continue to play an important role at Bentley, but I can well imagine us incorporating hybrid technology in the not too distant future”, says Dürheimer with firm conviction.