Bentley beefs up U.S. stores

NEW YORK - Bentley expects to increase its tiny U.S. dealer body by about 50 percent, in time to launch a range of cars beginning in 2003.

Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Cars Inc., in Auburn Hills, Mich., has 39 U.S. dealers, representing both brands. CEO Alasdair Stewart said on its own, Bentley will need U.S. dealers numbering "in the low 60s" to meet its goals for higher sales volume.

Parent company Volkswagen AG owns both Rolls-Royce and Bentley brands, but the brands will split after Dec. 31, 2002. VW takes over Bentley; BMW AG takes over Rolls-Royce.

Stewart said most of the new Bentley dealers will be in markets where the brand is not now sold, such as Memphis, Kansas City and St. Louis.

He said the company offers higher dealer incentives to dealerships that meet Bentley standards for exclusivity.

U.S. sales for Rolls-Royce and Bentley combined were 804 units in 2000. Bentley accounted for about 80 percent of the total.

The company expects total 2001 sales to be roughly even with a year ago.

After adding models, the company forecasts U.S. sales for Bentley alone of about 3,000 to 4,000 a year by 2005, Stewart said.

The first all-new Bentley under VW ownership will be a large, "super-powerful" coupe, he said. It will sell for about $145,000 when U.S. sales begin in mid-2003.

In a speech to the International Motor Press Association in New York, Stewart called the model a GT coupe.

That will not be the car's name, he added. Until now, Bentley's code-name for the model was Mid Size Bentley.

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com

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