The UK is potentially less than a month away from leaving the European Union without a deal. This could mean severe disruption at the country’s ports, which is bad news for a lot of people, especially car manufacturers.
‘Just in time’ production schedules don’t work so well when your latest shipment of parts is held up in Calais, so Bentley has a variety of contingency plans in store. One involves five Boeing 747 cargo aircraft the company has on reserve via a timeshare agreement, The Guardian reports.
“We’re ready to jump off a cliff with a parachute that hasn’t been tested,” CEO Adrian Hallmark said at a conference organised by the Financial Times, adding, “We’d rather not be jumping off the cliff with a parachute at all”.
We queried the proposed use of cargo aircraft with Bentley’s press department, who confirmed that “a number of planes” are on hold, but described the move as “a final backup plan and we don’t anticipate having to use them”.
Other solutions including routing imports via ports other than Dover, and a big increase in warehouse capacity. Normally, only two day’s worth of import parts would be stocked, but now, Bentley has enough to fuel 14 days of production. 90 per cent of the parts it uses come from abroad.
A no-deal scenario would also see a 10 per cent tariff slapped on all Bentley models sold in the EU, which accounts for nearly a quarter of its annual sales. Hallmark sees port disruption as potentially more damaging than tariffs, however, and queues to cross the channel may happen even with a deal in place, as there will still be additional paperwork involved for freight moving in and out of the UK.
Either way, Bentley seems well prepared, but as a lower-volume manufacturer making a modest 11,000 cars a year, it has the flexibility to implement various countermeasures. The situation is even less ideal for a facility like Nissan’s Sunderland plant, which made 346,535 vehicles last year.