Bentley Looks Ahead to Priciest SUV After Record Sales

Bentley, the British car manufacturer favored by the Queen of England, said potential customers are already queuing for the world’s most expensive sports utility vehicle ahead of its introduction later this year.

Boasting of the SUV’s ability to cocoon passengers in luxury even far from a paved road, Wolfgang Duerheimer, head of the Crewe, England-based unit of Volkswagen AG, said Bentley expects to sell about 3,000 of the high-end units each year once the model hits showrooms in 2016. The company has already seen interest from 4,000 potential buyers who have yet to view the vehicle.

“The Bentley SUV will be the most exclusive, most luxurious and most expensive SUV in the world,” Duerheimer told journalists today in London, showing a video of the car driving up sand dunes. “The level of luxury will be extraordinary.”

The model is vital for Volkswagen’s goal to boost Bentley sales to 15,000 vehicles by 2018. The marque’s global deliveries rose 9 percent to a record 11,020 cars last year, Duerheimer said today, with the U.S remaining its largest segment, contributing 29 percent to total sales.

China, where more than 1 in 3 luxury vehicles sold last year were Bentleys, will be the marque’s key growth market, said Kevin Rose, the sales chief. Total sales there rose 22 percent to 2,160 from last year, representing 24 percent of the unit’s total.

Though the SUV won’t be Bentley’s most expensive vehicle at base price, the range of optional extras could push its cost above the carmaker’s other models, Rose said.

180,000 Euros

The SUV may cost about 180,000 euros ($214,000) and is part of a move to expand beyond sedans and coupes: the Continental GT, the Flying Spur and Mulsanne. Bentley announced a 800 million-pound ($1.22 billion), three-year investment plan in 2013.

The new vehicle will compete with the likes of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, the Mercedes-Benz GL63 AMG and the top-of-the-line Range Rover from Tata Motors Ltd.’s Jaguar Land Rover unit. Yesterday, Rolls-Royce Motors Cars Ltd. said it would decide this year whether to join the fray with its own SUV model.

Bentley parent VW, Europe’s largest automaker, is making a broader push to expand in lucrative premium cars with brands including Audi, Porsche and Lamborghini. It’s based on a prototype presented at the Geneva motor show in 2012. While the design has been modified since, the concept car sported features including picnic hampers for polo-ground tailgating, 23-inch wheels and gaping turbine-like air intakes.

Once the SUV goes on sale, the marque is still considering adding another model to its lineup, Duerheimer confirmed today.