Q&A: Bentley enjoys its 'privileged position'

British brand's sales are booming compared with ultra-luxury competitors

Crewe, England. How is Bentley handling the tough competition in the ultra-luxury segment? Which additional models are in the Volkswagen subsidiary's future plans? Automobilwoche's Henning Krogh got the answers when he spoke with Ulrich Eichhorn, the VW board member in charge of engineering at Bentley.

Times for luxury brands such as Maybach and Rolls-Royce are tougher than expected. How is it going for Bentley?

Our sales within the top class segment have been very satisfactory during the past few months. We love this privileged position but do not take it for granted.

Could you share any sales figures?

We sold around 450 units of our top model, the Arnage series, during the first nine months. We hope that sales will continue to rise. Bentley manufactured 4,400 units of the coupe Continental GT between January and September. In the new year, we will also be selling a significant number of the new four-seater. All those Bentleys have already been sold to customers. And we still have a considerable number of orders to cope with.

To minimize waiting times for the new sedan that will be launched in 2005, Bentley is considering manufacturing at VW's Phaeton assembly plant in Dresden, Germany. How much production would you move to Dresden?

If results of the internal analysis show that such a step would make sense economically for both Bentley and the VW group, then we will start an additional final assembly in Dresden. It will be supplied with components from the English main plant. This would not be a long-term solution but it could help to handle large orders for a certain period of time. Manufacturing left-hand drive versions of the new sedan there, for example, would be an obvious choice. However, we would not set up an additional production line for wood or leather components in Dresden. Bentley's headquarters in Crewe has decades of experience with such crafts so that is where such production will remain.

Will Bentley also offer a convertible version of the Continental GT?

The development of such a convertible has not been finalized. We cannot and do not want to engineer just to have a reserve. However, if Bentley decides to offer a convertible version of the Continental, we should be able to manage that by 2006. Still, there would be a tight engineering schedule ahead of us.

Will the Arnage have a successor?

Yes, of course. The Arnage segment is important to us. Our customers for this segment are very loyal, and we are earning good money. However, there will be no successor before 2009.

Will the new Arnage have eight cylinders or 12 such as the Continental series?

I cannot answer that yet.

How will Bentley be positioned within the VW group's brand and manufacturing system in the future?

We are and will continue to be Volkswagen group's luxury-premium brand. To do that we have to use the group's resources even more, from engineering methods to the use of modules and components to negotiating prices with suppliers.

How far can Bentley production expand?

Theoretically 10,000 units a year is possible. However, it is our principle to always build one car less than needed.

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