The ultimate car guy
Bentley Chairman and CEO Franz-Josef Paefgen hails from Germany -- but his automotive heart is all British.
(Fortune Magazine) -- In 2002, Franz-Josef Paefgen, the former chairman of Audi, took the wheel at Bentley Motors, another of the VW Group's luxury brands.
Within two years he increased sales six times over -- from 995 cars sold worldwide in 2003 to 6,576 in 2004. The main contributor? The all-new Continental GT coupe, a car that brought a sporty and "affordable" ($150,000) 12-cylinder Bentley to the market -- and a new crop of celebrity and hip-hop clients to the brand.
The following year he launched the equally successful sedan version, the Flying Spur. Paefgen's ardor for British cars predates his current job by decades -- and dominates his personal garages. He spoke with Fortune's Sue Zesiger Callaway about owning and driving great and humble cars.
Q: What cars do you own?
A: In the U.K. I have a '53 Bentley Mark VI and a 1956 Morris Minor that I bought because I didn't want to be seen all the time going to the pub in a Bentley! In Germany I have my first old car, a 1967 Lamborghini 400GT -- all original with only 24,000 kilometers.
There's my "driver," a 1953 Jaguar XK120 fixed-head coupe. And there's my challenge: a '56 Bentley S1 convertible with a Graber body -- one of only two built -- that's undergoing a full conservation.
Q: Do you drive your old cars?
A: I drive all my cars regularly -- especially the XK120. I've driven 120 mph with this Jag, and it regularly does 100 mph on the autobahn -- it's good for it.
Q: What makes you buy a particular car?
A: I have a simple explanation: It's like a bird that learns a certain whistle early in life and never uses another. We all have a tendency to love the cars that were desirable but out of reach when we were 16 or 17. My first big love was a Jaguar Mark 2 that a neighbor owned.
Q: What makes you such a passionate Anglophile?
A: When I was 16, I was sent on a school exchange program in England. In the '60s there were a lot of great and affordable British cars that I admired -- Spitfires, Midgets, Jags -- and hoped that I might be able to buy someday.
Q: Which car do you most wish to own?
A: Many! Of course, you can't drive more than four or five cars. If I don't drive them, I sell them. But I'd say a Ferrari 275 GTB short wheelbase. It's the car that influenced postwar sports-car design the most.