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Bentley may add a fifth model after SUV launch

Bentley CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer - Bentley may add a fifth model after SUV launch

Bentley may add a fifth model to its product lineup, CEO Wolfgang Duerheimer said.

The new model could be a two-seat sports car or a model that would slot between the Continental GT coupe and the more expensive Mulsanne limousine, Duerheimer said at a press event here.

Bentley plans to launch a fourth model, its first SUV, in 2016. The SUV may cost about €180,000 ($243,000), allowing the ultraluxury brand to expand beyond sedans and coupes.

“Our r&d department is at full steam right now with the SUV. We want to keep the momentum going and immediately run into the next model line,” Duerheimer said.

A decision on the fifth model will come after the SUV is on the road, he said.

The new car could use Porsche’s modular MSB platform. “We are working very closely with Porsche. The MSB is under Porsche’s leadership and the new car could share some components. If we did do a two-seater it would be very quick” he said.

Duerheimer, 56, a former head of r&d at Porsche, returned to Bentley as chief executive last month after heading development at Audi for less than a year.

He suggested that Bentley will build convertible and coupe versions of the Mulsanne limousine. “What I hear from our customers is that a big convertible from Bentley would be very well received,” he said.

The cars would rival Roll-Royce’s Phantom Coupe and Phantom Drophead Coupe.

Bentley, which is owned by Volkswagen Group, is expanding its lineup to help achieve a goal to increase sales to 15,000 vehicles by 2018, up from 10,120 last year, a record for the brand.

The SUV will play a crucial role in reaching the goal. Duerheimer said the 3,000 annual sales target for the SUV is “conservative.”

The SUV will be launched first with Bentley’s W12 engine, Duerheimer said. A plug-in hybrid will come in 2017 offering an electric range of 50km (30 miles) and will likely have a V-6 gasoline engine and electric motor.

A diesel could also form part of the range.

Duerheimer said the SUV could be the first Bentley to get a diesel engine, adding that the 4.2-liter V-8 TDI currently used by Audi would be the most likely fit

Diesel and plug-in hybrid technology would help Bentley cut CO2 emissions. The brand aims to cut its average fleet emissions by 12 percent in the next four years, Duerheimer said, without giving the current average. To help achieve that, the company plans to sell plug-in versions of 90 percent of its line-up by the end of the decade. Downsized engines such as V-6 gasoline units could be offered in China for cars such as the Mulsanne, Duerheimer said.

Bentley will continue to look for more derivatives on models it already has. Duerhemier said the brand would spend £800 million ($1.36 billion) in new model development and facilities at its Crewer, England, headquarters from now until 2016, not including the fifth model.

“In the high luxury sector, new models drive sales and this is why we are investing heavily,” he said.