Durheimer to step down as Bentley CEO

Bentley CEO Wolfgang Duerheimer with the retooled Continental GT at the Frankfurt auto show on Sept. 12. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

Just months before launching a redesigned Continental GT — the car that revived the Bentley brand and ushered it into the 21st century with the resources of the Volkswagen Group — Bentley Motors is planning a major shake-up of its executive ranks.

Wolfgang Durheimer will step down as CEO of Bentley effect February 1, 2018; he will be succeeded by Adrian Hallmark, former global strategy director at Jaguar Land Rover.

Bentley’s board members for engineering, sales and marketing, and human resources will also step down, effective January 1, 2018.

The announcement came Friday from Bentley’s headquarters in Crewe, England.

Durheimer, 59, will stay on at the VW Group to assist with the automaker’s motorsports efforts. It’s a fitting culmination to a career that oversaw the development of two generations of the Porsche 911, the Bugatti Chiron and the Porsche Carrera GT and 918 Spyder.

An engineer by trade, Durheimer joined Porsche in 1999, a decade before VW Group bought a controlling stake in the sports car brand. He became Bentley’s CEO in 2011, moved to Audi in 2012 and returned to Bentley in 2014.

“I would like to thank Wolfgang Durheimer for his dedication to Bentley Motors and the Volkswagen Group,” Matthias Mueller, CEO of the VW Group, said in a statement. “He has had an outstanding career and has launched some of the most important cars the Group has ever created.”

Hallmark’s appointment as CEO is a homecoming of sorts for the 55 year-old executive. Prior to posts at Jaguar Land Rover and Saab, Hallmark served as executive vice president of Volkswagen of America starting in 2005. Before coming to the U.S., Hallmark had served as a Bentley board member for sales and marketing since 1999.

Rolf Frech, 60, will step down as board member for engineering after six years in the post. He’ll be replaced by Werner Tietz, 54, who has spent the past 25 years with Porsche and Audi.

Andreas Offerman, 60, board member for sales and marketing, will be replaced by Chris Craft, 58, who has 24 years with the VW Group and most recently served as managing director for Porsche Great Britain.

Astrid Fontaine has been appounted Bentley’s new board member for “people, digitalization, and IT.” A former Mercedes-Benz executive, Fontaine, 48, takes over for Marlies Rogait, 60.

Bentley is the luxury crown jewel in VW Group’s considerable exotic portfolio. The brand sold 2,581 vehicles in the U.S. in 2016; sales are up 13 percent through September of this year to 1,672 vehicles, thanks largely to the introduction of its first-ever SUV, the Bentyaga.