fluffy yet turgid

Joseph S. Barrera III joe at barrera.org
Mon Dec 1 13:27:48 PST 2003


Bentley Coupe to Quadruple Brand’s Sales

By Herb Shuldiner

WardsAuto.com, Sep 11 2003

NEW YORK – Car buyers looking to purchase the new Bentley coupe better 
get in line. The $150,000 premium car already is sold out.

New Bentley Coupe already has 2,000 orders.

“If you put down your deposit now, May 2005 is the earliest you could 
get one of our new coupes," says Bentley Motors Inc. President Alasdair 

Stewart predicts the coupe will quadruple Bentley's volume next year 
from the current 400 units annually in the U.S. "Two years down the 
line, we'll do 10,000 cars worldwide and 5,000 in the U.S. and Canada," 
he says. (See related story: Bentley Roars Ahead on Its Own)

Even without Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, whose brand ownership shifted to 
BMW AG on Jan. 1, Bentley sales volume in units and revenue is barely 
behind last year, Stewart says. "We might be five or six cars behind."

He forecasts sales of about 400 units this year — some 40% of the U.K. 
plant's output. At the same time, U.S. Bentley dealers are selling 
approximately one used car for every new car.

Dealers make more money on used cars than new cars, Stewart says. Part 
of the reason used car sales have boomed is that some customers don't 
want to wait for a coupe to become available, so they buy a used Bentley.

"Margins on new and used cars have firmed up since the beginning of the 
year," he adds, noting Bentley does not offer incentives.

While not all Bentley dealers have Rolls-Royce franchises now, all of 
them continue to service older Rolls cars. Bentley is the sole 
manufacturer and supplier of replacement parts for all the Rolls-Royce 
cars built in Crewe, England.

"It's a big enough business for us to make and market Crewe genuine 
parts,” Stewart says. "That's a business we're aggressively pursuing."

Meanwhile, coupe orders are coming in at a rate of 150 per week. "We 
intend to fulfill as many of the coupe orders as we can next year," he 
says. But coupe deliveries cannot exceed 1,500-1,600 units due to plant 

"We could go to a second shift to add production," Stewart says, noting 
that Crewe already has added about 300 employees, including engineers 
and production workers.

He also says people are starting to recognize Bentley as separate from 
Rolls-Royce. The coupe announcement and the Le Mans racing victory this 
year helped lift the brand’s image.

These developments emphasize the driving aspect of the brand, Stewart 
says. “We are not a trophy car." Bentley owners frequently drive their 
own cars – they don't have chauffeurs, he says, adding that customers 
are beginning to discover the difference between Bentley and Rolls-Royce.

Despite the emphasis on driving, Bentley is not abandoning its 
reputation for using the finest materials and craftsmanship in its 
hand-built cars. Nearly half of Bentley's output receives some 
personalized content.

Stewart estimates the customization averages about $5,000 per car. But 
he says one customer from Michigan ordered a Bentley Arnage this year 
whose price exceeded $500,000. The customer ordered a variety of 
customized features, including a unique instrument panel that looks like 
the one in his airplane.

He also ordered an “amazing” sound system and some fuel tank changes. 
"He's a very special customer for us," Stewart says. "He owns five 
Bentleys. Most Bentley customers own a portfolio of five or six cars.

Stewart says Bentley models to date compete with the Rolls-Royce and 
Maybach marques, while the new ($160,000) coupe will compete in a lower 
segment against the very top-end Mercedes-Benz and BMW models.

He believes the coupe will grab conquest sales from current owners of 
the Mercedes SL600 and other top-end cars in the Mercedes and BMW 
lineups. Stewart also sees Ferrari and Aston-Martin owners as conquest 
targets. "A little less so from Lamborghini," he says.

There may be some erosion of Arnage sales when the coupe debuts next 
spring. But Stewart forecasts the Arnage will remain important to 
Bentley despite the coupe being followed by the lower-priced Continental 
GT sedan.(See related story: Arnage Won’t Be Forgotten as Bentley Moves 
Down Market)

"Eventually, I hope we'll have a convertible also," he says. "But 
nothing is in the works on that right now." Nor does Bentley have plans 
for a true sports car.

Stewart believes the auto maker could not have survived without 
Volkswagen AG's takeover. "Volkswagen has allowed us to rebuild the 
brand," he says. "Endless money has been put into the factory."(See 
related story: End of Rolls-Royce Era Nears at Crewe)

In addition, VW allows the people who run the Crewe plant to run the 
brand. "The payback will start with the coupe,"Stewart predicts. "From 
that we hope to finance future product development."

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