GENEVA - With $800 million in Volkswagen cash at its disposal, Bentley says it wants to be more than just a builder of backward-looking luxury cars.
Project Hunaudieres, the high-tech sports car powered by a 623-hp, 16-cylinder engine that was unveiled here last week, is Bentley's statement about one future possibility. The car is named for the famous straightaway at the Le Mans racing circuit where Bentley won five 24-hour races during the 1920s, and it probably was the most controversial car at this year's Geneva show.
Tony Gott, acting chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and Bentley Motor Cars, said the concept was assembled in Wolfsburg, Germany, by Bentley and VW designers.
Bentley officials described the car as a test bed for new technology, particularly for the new 16-cylinder engine, which they say is more likely to go into production than the car itself. The car also features a five-speed manual gearbox. No Bentley has had a manual transmission since 1958, Gott said.
Bentley wants to expand its sales from about 2,500 annually to about 9,000 within a few years. Until now, Bentley cars have been strongly influenced by elements from Bentley's tradition-laden past, Gott said. With the future possibilities opened by the VW checkbook, Bentley wants to look forward more, he said.
The project is one of five future product ideas Bentley is working on, Gott said. Teams are working on two projects at Crewe and another at Wolfsburg, as well as others elsewhere, he said.
Gott acknowledged that other companies are considering the super luxury segment with cars like the Mercedes-Benz Maybach.
'We're not about to give up our turf,' he said. 'Bentley needs to expand.'