Tuesday 4 March 2014

Bentley: Even big boys get it wrong

Bentley's controversially-styled SUV concept has been made ‘more Bentley and less Range Rover' and has been signed off for production.

Winter testing begins next week following hot weather tests in the southern hemisphere, said Dr Wolfgang Schreiber, chairman and chief executive of Bentley Motors Ltd., part of Volkswagen AG.

Prototypes will start to be built in May at the Crewe factory where 400 extra workers have been taken on specifically for SUV production. The project has also created an extra 600 jobs in the UK supply chain.

"Extending the model range with an SUV was a really big step for us," said Schreiber. "SUVs are popular worldwide and it will attract different customers to Bentley; don't see a lot of substitution for our existing models."

“The styling of the EXP 9F concept, shown at Geneva two years ago, was not a major issue,” claimed Schreiber. "First impressions from customers were a clear ‘Yes’ and we had 2,000 pre-orders without anyone knowing the price."

Those 2,000 orders are written confirmation of interest, according to Schreiber.

“Since then the front, sides, roof and rear have all been changed. It was too boxy and not enough of a Bentley," said Schreiber.

The SUV will go some way to building Bentley's sales volume to 15,000 by 2018 from 10,000 last year, the company hopes.

"Our conservative estimate is 3,500 SUV sales a year," he said.

This would leave room for another model in the line-up in addition to the Continental GT and Mulsanne.

"What it is, we haven't planned but it has to have the right combination of luxury and performance,” he added.

But someone will have some ideas.

"Our long-term vision is to be the most successful luxury brand in the world," said Schreiber, noting that Bentley's global market share of the luxury segment was 23 per cent in 2013.

"Volume is one measure but not our primary focus - customer satisfaction has to be number one so that they buy another car from us," he said.                    

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