Nigel Lofkin is one of Bentley’s full-time Customer Hosts, responsible for guiding customers, prospects, media and other VIP visitors from all over the world around Bentley’s factory in Crewe..
I’ve been with the Bentley brand for 35 years. In that time, I’ve seen huge changes. I joined the company as a Coach Trimmer back in 1980, when it was Rolls Royce & Bentley Motor Cars, and I can honestly say that Bentley has never seen better days than we are currently enjoying. We have benefited so much from Group investment. It’s allowed us to grow to be the strong business we are today, with four fantastic model lines, while retaining all the hand craftsmanship that made Bentley unique in the first place.
I was a leather-stretcher for almost 20 years. Don’t worry, that’s just what other teams used to call us in the trim shop! I was responsible for upholstering seats and I loved working with the natural materials – the smell and the feel of Bentley leather is incredible! Through Bentley’s own training academy, I took Spanish and German classes, which brought me ultimately into my current role. As a result I can now deliver tours in three languages. It’s a nice personal touch and something our overseas visitors really appreciate.
Like many of the team here today, I’m not the first or the only member of my family to be with Bentley. My grandfather worked here during the war years, my older brother has been here on the shop floor for 40 years, and my son and daughter have both completed their work experience at Crewe as well. And this is far from unique. I know several families where nearly every member is working here, which creates a really welcoming feel, and I’ve had a number of customers from around the world say exactly that to me. It’s what sets us apart from other brands – we make our cars by hand and we encourage our customers to come and meet the people responsible for stitching their car’s seats or testing its engine.
Visitors are always amazed with the amount of work that goes into every car. We don’t bring in pre-assembled seats or trim components, or wood fascia panels in boxes. Every single piece of trimmed upholstery in the cabin is cut, sewn and then assembled by hand. It’s why it can take hundreds of hours to make one car. The steering wheel alone takes someone five hours to sew together by hand. Ask for cross-stitching on your seats and you’re creating a week’s work for somebody!
The factory is our best sales tool. If the enthusiasm and skill of the guys and girls on the line doesn’t get you, the smell of the wood and leather will. It’s had me since day one, and I feel blessed to work in a job where I can genuinely share my passion and the unique experience that is our factory with such a varied audience.