Why Bentley has to build its SUV

It would be fair to say Bentley got a bit of stick for its SUV on here, culminating in one poster comparing the unlovely rear end to that of a Maestro.

The designers might be sent away for some intensive silk-purse manufacturing, but one thing's for certain: Bentley will build a production version of the 12-cylinder EXP 9 F.

PistonHeads was told exactly that by a board member for company, engineering head Rolf Frech. As he explained, it's all about sales balance. Bentley has only two model lines in the Continental and Mulsanne range, and when they get older sales begin to dip. Insert another car half way through their life cycle and the sales even out.

"We think the SUV is the right car to get that balance," Frech told Pistonheads.

He knows this because, like his boss Wolfgang Durheimer, he comes from Porsche. "We had the same situation there. We only had the sports cars, then we brought out the Cayenne and suddenly we had this balance," he said.

The Cayenne has become the poster child for specialist car companies to reference when justifying veering off into SUV making. Last year in Europe Porsche sold just over 18,000 of them compared to around 11,500 of the 911, making it the company's biggest seller. Even more tempting than Europe for makers is China, where last year 1.59 million SUVs were bought. Back in 2006 there were just 370,000 sold over there. So important is China for Bentley that in the first two months of this year, just over a third of all its cars were sold there.

The luxury SUV bandwagon keeps on rolling, with Lamborghini launching is SUV concept at the Beijing motor show next month and Maserati hard at work turning its Kubang concept into reality for sales in 2013. And lesser makers know that SUVs are an extremely bankable proposition. Here's a not very difficult question: what unites Porsche with Nissan, Subaru, Infiniti, Mitsubishi and Volvo? Answer: all had an SUV as their biggest seller in Europe last year. Some companies would keel over and die without them.
Nissan sold an amazing 217,000 of its Sunderland-built Qashqai last year throughout Europe, over double its second best seller, the Juke micro-SUV. The Mitsubishi ASX sold nearly double the company's next biggest seller, while the Volvo XC60 and Subaru Forester topped their companies' sales leader boards.

And now we have Bentley. When it does get built, let's hope the Crewe boffins chalk Experimental 9 up to experience and produce something looking a little less like Frankenstein's monster.


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Comments (164) Join the discussion on the forum

  • peteO 15 Feb 2013

    VictorMeldrew said:
    Holy thread resurrection!

  • VictorMeldrew 14 Feb 2013

    Holy thread resurrection!

  • porsche200471 14 Feb 2013

    I know I'm going to receive a a good kicking for saying this, but...
    I like it.

  • LeoSayer 30 Mar 2012

    There must be some kind of wierd marketing strategy thing going on here.

    Porsche did it with the Cayenne and will probably do the same with the Panamera.

    For the first version of your new model, make it drive well but look like a dungheap. You know that many customers will ignore the looks because:
    1. They want the latest new toy to impress their friends and neighbours
    2. They always buy products from that manufacturer
    3. They are partially sighted

    After 4-5 years when you have exhausted the above, then rebody the same car to make it much better looking, thereby capturing sales from all the above plus those who want to upgrade purely because the new one is so much better looking than their one.

  • Zaxxon 30 Mar 2012

    I have just seen the front cover of Top Gear in WH Smith. I thought it was an April Fools joke.

    How can someone call themself a car designer when they allow a turd like that to crawl of their drawing board?

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