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[Herald Interview] Bentley pursues timeless design

Seoul dealership stands as Bentley’s second-best-selling retailer

Bentley Motors’ DNA is rooted in its classic designs and its ability to balance craftsmanship and technology, according to the British luxury automaker’s head designer.

Lee Sang-yup, who is at the helm of Bentley’s exterior and advanced designs, shared his design philosophy during an interview with The Korea Herald when he visited Korea for the launch of the Flying Spur V8 this month.

“I want to share with Korean consumers the passion Bentley has for keeping its heritage and DNA,” the chief designer said. 
Flying Spur V8. (Bentley Korea)
Flying Spur V8. (Bentley Korea)

Lee said that Bentley Motors, a subsidiary of German carmaker Volkswagen AG, pursues timeless designs that can last decades, while at the same time staying exclusive with its unique interpretations of contemporary luxury. Add to that its insistence for using only the finest materials, and the formula for success is complete.

“I think preserving Bentley’s classic designs while keeping up with the fast-changing trends and rules in the auto sector is the most challenging task for us designers,” the designer said.

In this sense, Lee said Bentley carves out a unique spot in the market because customers can recognize a Bentley from a good distance due to its signature look.

Thanks to these merits, and the growing demand among Koreans for high-class vehicles, the U.K. carmaker has seen its sales rise significantly over the past few years.

“Bentley’s Korean dealerships sold 196 vehicles up to this August, and this figure surpasses last year’s record of 170 units, making the dealership in Seoul the second-biggest retailer among 200 dealers in the world,” said Tim Mackinlay, Bentley’s director for Korea and Japan. 
Lee Sang-yup, Bentley Motors’ head of exterior and advanced design, speaks during a launching event for the Flying Spur V8 held at Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul on Sept. 18. (Bentley Korea)
Lee Sang-yup, Bentley Motors’ head of exterior and advanced design, speaks during a launching event for the Flying Spur V8 held at Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul on Sept. 18. (Bentley Korea)

He added that the Flying Spur V8 would offer a higher level of satisfaction to Korean consumers seeking unique luxury sedans.

Lee said while most car brands prioritize how many cars they can produce a limited time, Bentley is, as a rule, focused on value.

“When people talk about design, they usually think about the visible things. In the case of Bentley vehicles, design can be felt through all five senses, meaning they are aesthetically pleasing, while the sound of the engine and the temperature and smell from the leather seats all come together,” Lee said.

Before joining Bentley Motors, Lee worked at Volkswagen Group of the U.S.’ California Design Center as a senior designer in charge of exterior and advanced designs at many of the group’s affiliated brands including Audi, Porsche and Lamborghini.

He is also well known for designing the yellow Autobot Bumblebee ― a Chevrolet Camaro ― in the film “Transformers.” This was when he was at General Motors.

For the V8 variant of Bentley’s best-selling Flying Spur sedans, Lee said he focused on its contemporary performance and efficiency, adding that the result was the work of close cooperation with Bentley’s top engineers.

The Bentley Flying Spur V8 shares the same 4.0-liter V8 engine with the Bentley Continental GT V8. Its twin-turbo engine develops 507 horsepower and 67.3 kilogram meters of torque.

The engine powers the car to 100 kilometers per hour in 5.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 295 kph, while offering a range of more than 800 kilometers, according to the company.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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