Bentley Motors Limited (/) is a British company that designs, develops, and manufactures luxury motorcars which are largely hand-built. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG. Now based in Crewe, England, Bentley Motors Limited was founded by W. O. Bentley on 18 January 1919 in Cricklewood, North London. Bentley cars are sold via franchised dealers worldwide, and as of November 2012, China was the largest market.
Most Bentley cars are assembled at the Crewe factory, but a small number of Continental Flying Spurs were assembled at the factory in Dresden, Germany for a brief period when there was insufficient capacity at Crewe. Bodies for the Continental are produced in Zwickau, Germany. Bentley won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, and 2003.
Regarded as a British luxury automobile icon, Bentley models include the Bentley 4½ Litre, Bentley Speed Six, Bentley R Type Continental, Bentley Turbo R, and Bentley Arnage. As of 2015, Bentley produce the Continental Flying Spur, Continental GT, Bentley Bentayga and the Mulsanne.
Rolls-Royce bought Bentley from the receivers in 1931 following a courtroom battle with rival bidder Napier. In 1971, Rolls Royce was forced into receivership following financial problems stemming from the costs of developing the RB211 jet engine. In order to safeguard the company, the UK government nationalised the company and split off the, profitable, motor cars division into a new separate company, Rolls Royce Motors Limited, which included the Bentley brand. Subsequently Rolls Royce Motors was then sold to British engineering conglomerate, Vickers. In 1998, Vickers sold Rolls Royce to Volkswagen AG, however, because the intellectual property rights to the name Rolls Royce, and the famous rectangular badge were owned by Rolls Royce Plc (the aerospace company that had recovered under nationalisation and been subsequently sold back into the private sector), and only licenced to Rolls Royce Motors Limited, the sale to VW did not include these two trademarks with Rolls Royce Plc selling them to rival BMW AG. Therefore the sale included the Bentley name and logos, vehicle designs, model nameplates, production and administrative facilities, the Spirit of Ecstasy and Rolls-Royce grille shape trademarks (subsequently sold to BMW by VW), but not the rights to the Rolls-Royce name or logo which are owned by Rolls-Royce plc.