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2014-01-09 10:18

EPITOME OF A LUXURY SUV: Bentley's new SUV has been given the green light to be built in Crewe, England. It will cost about R2.2-million rand and come with a fancy picnic set. Image: Bentley

LONDON, England - Luxury automaker Bentley is betting on a new SUV to build on the success of its Flying Spur sedan that drove its sales to a record high in 2013.

Bentley, owned by VW, sold 10 120 ultra-luxury sedans, coupes and convertibles in 2013, 19% more than 2012 year, beating a previous high set in 2007, as demand from the Americas outweighed shrinking deliveries in China.

Bentley CEO Wolfgang Schreiber said: "We continue to be very successful in winning new customers and are confident that 2014 will be another successful year."

15 000 BENTLEYS BY 2018

The new generation of the Flying Spur and a convertible version of the Continental GT Speed helped boost sales.

Bentley aims to grow sales to 15 000 models by 2018 and said a new SUV model which should be on the road within three years would help reach its target.

Schreiber said: "We are seeing  2000 pre-orders of that car from people who haven't seen the final design and have no idea of the price.
"They've said okay I will buy it, and therefore there is demand and maybe we can create a new segment, a luxury SUV segment."

Internal forecasts for Bentley's SUV model were for annual sales of the vehicle of at least 3000. The new model will compete with the Range Rover and Porsche's Cayenne Turbo, Schreiber said.

Bentley, which says its average customer has seven or eight cars, defines the luxury market as cars worth more than R2-million and estimates it had a 25% share of that market in 2013.


Sales in the Americas, Bentley's No. 1 market, surged 28% to 3140 cars while deliveries to China, its second biggest market, fell 2.8% to 2191, helped by an increase in the fourth quarter when the Flying Spur became available.

In the first nine months of 2013, Chinese sales fell 17% as a range of luxury brands including Lamborghini, LVMH and Burberry reported an abrupt cooling in demand for high-end goods in the country.

Although optimistic about growth in China in the longer term, the group was cautious on the outlook for this year, sales and marketing director Kevin Rose said.

Rose said:"I expect some growth for us because we didn't have Flying Spur all of last year but we will have it all of this year. I don't think we'll be helped too much by the market."

In his view, the challenges Bentley faces in China are that it is currently seen as less acceptable to display wealth, and some of the country's richest people are migrating elsewhere.


Those individuals relocating maintained their appetite for Bentley.

Rose said: "If you take places like San Diego, Vancouver, a high proportion of the sales are to Chinese nationals."

Back at the automaker's factory in the English Midlands town of Crewe, a facility which used to make engines for the Spitfire fighter planes used during the second world war, preparations are underway to start building the new SUV.

Manufacturing the new model could create 400 jobs.

Read more on:    bentley  |  usa  |  suv  |  new models

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