Bentley Touts First SUV Model Amid Plan to Boost Deliveries

Bentley Motors Ltd., Volkswagen AG’s U.K. luxury unit, said it intends to sell at least 3,000 SUVs a year when the new model is available in 2016 as part of a plan to boost overall deliveries by about 50 percent by 2018.

“We are confident that Bentley will have another good year, with strong growth,” Chief Executive Officer Wolfgang Schreiber said today in a statement. Deliveries through February totaled 1,408 cars, a 13 percent increase from a year earlier.

European car sales rose for the sixth consecutive month in February, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association said yesterday. Economic revival and price cuts have helped boost demand for new models from Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest carmaker, and Renault SA. Bentley, which sold 10,120 cars in 2013, a 19 percent increase, aims for 15,000 deliveries a year by 2018, Schreiber said today.

The luxury car market “is not static,” Schreiber said at a news conference in London where Bentley showed a photograph of the first sport-utility vehicle it plans to produce. The new model, which has at least 2,000 advance orders, is part of an 800 million-pound ($1.33 billion) investment in new vehicles and facilities over the next three years, the Crewe, England-based company said.

“It will create a completely new segment in the SUV market,” Schreiber said. “It will be the most luxurious and powerful SUV.”

The vehicle may encounter competition from BMW’s Rolls-Royce Motor Cars super-luxury unit. Division CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes said in a Jan. 9 interview that Rolls-Royce is considering whether an SUV would fit into its line-up.

Jaguar, Aston

Tata Motors Ltd.’s high-end British car brand Jaguar displayed a prototype small SUV at the Frankfurt auto show in September. Aston Martin is also considering development of an SUV.

“So far we’ve ticked all the boxes,” Schreiber said. “We’re exactly in time.”

The U.S. is Bentley’s largest market, with a 31 percent share of deliveries, followed by China with 22 percent, Europe with 15 percent and the U.K. with 14 percent. The Middle East region accounted for 12 percent of 2013 deliveries.

Market trends in China aren’t as strong as in the U.S., which will remain Bentley’s biggest market in 2014, Kevin Rose, a board member who oversees sales and marketing, said today.

Bentley said yesterday that it expects to reverse a decline in deliveries in China after it introduces a variation of the Flying Spur model next month.

Flying Spur

The Flying Spur V8, with the lowest starting price among Bentley’s four-door sedans, “will open up a new avenue to the luxury brand,” Ricky Tay, China managing director, said in an interview in Beijing.

Bentley deliveries in China fell 2.8 percent last year, after rising 23 percent the previous 12 months and almost doubling in 2011.

The carmaker intends to produce all 12-cylinder engines for VW group brands in Crewe by the end of this year, and to increase output to 9,000 a year by 2017-2018 compared with 5,000 today.

So-called W12 engines for Audi and VW are currently made in Salzgitter, Germany. The change means that Bentley will begin exporting engines from its U.K. production facility, creating about 100 jobs.

Bentley plans to expand in four new markets this year, setting up dealerships in Iraq, Morocco, Vietnam and Chile. It added 20 dealerships in 2013 for a total of 193, and intends to have about 220 outlets by the end of 2014.

The carmaker’s operating profit surged 67 percent to 139.7 million pounds in 2013 on record sales of 1.4 billion pounds.

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