FRANKFURT - Bentley is launching a series of marketing initiatives to help support a major leap in sales as part of the Volkswagen Group.
The initiatives will position Bentley as an exclusive performance luxury brand seeking to lure wealthy customers out of their top-end Mercedes-Benz S-class, BMW 7 series or Audi A8 luxury sedans.
Bentley plans to grow from fewer than 2,000 annual sales now to about 9,000 sales in the next few years. Bentley will have to make the leap by itself, after nearly 70 years with Rolls-Royce.
At the end of 2002, Rolls-Royce and Bentley will split. BMW will own Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen will own Bentley. For now, Volkswagen has custody of both, but its priorities clearly lie with Bentley, even though company officials say they will continue to market Rolls-Royce until they hand it over to BMW.
EYE ON RESALE VALUES
Among the first of those marketing initiatives will be a global used-car program designed to bolster residual values, according to Adrian Hallmark, a member of the board for sales and marketing at Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
'We will market used cars as we market new cars,' Hallmark said. 'We will promote them, we will market them. We will run events just for used cars.'
Bentley also will offer used-car financing, improved warranties and an Internet stock locator program for dealers. Hallmark did not say when the program will be rolled out. Officials stress the programs will apply to both Rolls-Royce and Bentley for as long as VW has custody of both.
In England, home market of Rolls-Royce and Bentley, resale values had plunged. The company took the drastic step of withdrawing new cars temporarily from the market last April in order to prop up resale values. Hallmark noted that resale values dropped a similar amount for all luxury vehicles, not just Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
Hallmark said the step has paid off. Since the cars recently were introduced in England, resale values have regained 20 percent, he said.
Bentley also unveiled a new slogan at the Frankfurt auto show: 'The Power of a Legend.'
The slogan will be part of a corporate identity program being introduced in dealerships. The corporate identity program eventually will be accompanied by a series of promotional events designed to lure new customers to the Bentley brand.
RED LABEL, GREEN LABEL
The slogan was introduced along with a new version of the Bentley Arnage, called the Arnage Red Label. Both the Arnage and the Silver Seraph received engineering improvements designed to make them more autobahn friendly.
The new Red Label car features an updated version of the V-8 engine that has powered Bentleys for 40 years.
The 6.7-liter V-8 has more horsepower and torque than the 4.5-liter BMW V-8 the Arnage came with when it was introduced just 18 months ago.
English motorists were especially critical of the BMW engine, which they felt did not fit Bentley's high-torque image. The Red Label will be sold alongside the original BMW-powered Arnage, now known as the Green Label. The Red Label car will sell for an extra $6,390.
'They responded very quickly to the disappointment of customers with these wimpy V-8s,' said Karl Ludvigsen, chairman of Ludvigsen Associates, a London-based automotive industry consultancy.
'They put back the big Bentley boomer. That's a special characteristic of these cars. The fact they responded so quickly is an impressive indicator of how much they want to compete.'
The new/old engine is part of Bentley's drive to return to its core values. Tony Gott, Bentley managing director, also said the new engine marks the return of engine production and development to the Rolls-Royce and Bentley factory in Crewe, England.