VWs Bentley has much bigger volume targets about 9,000 units annually worldwide by around 2006, compared with 1,345 in 2001.
Bentley will introduce a less expensive car next year, internally referred to as the GT-C, for GT coupe. In this segment, less expensive means around $145,000. U.S. sales probably will begin in November 2003, closely following a European debut.
In the meantime, Stewart said he is working to establish a distinct identity for Bentley, which has belonged to the same company as Rolls-Royce since 1931, when Rolls-Royce Motor Cars bought Bentley Motors.
Parent Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Cars Ltd. have been trying for years to put some daylight between the two brands. It introduced the turbocharged Bentley Turbo R in 1988, without introducing a twin Rolls-Royce model, to establish Bentley as the sporty brand, compared with Rolls-Royce as the luxury brand. But other Bentley and Rolls-Royce products were almost carbon copies of each other.
In 1998, the company introduced its first Rolls-Royce and Bentley sedans since 1980, the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph, with a BMW V-12, and the Bentley Arnage, with a BMW V-8. Neither model sold well, until Bentley introduced the Arnage Red Label in 1999, bringing back the old Bentley engine.
For the past two years, Bentleys biggest marketing effort has been connected with racing at Le Mans.
Stewart said he wants to establish the Bentley as a drivers car as opposed to the Rolls-Royce and Maybach, which he said are aimed at chauffeur-driven customers.
Mercedes-Benz will introduce the Maybach brand in Europe in the fourth quarter of this year. U.S. sales are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2003. Most Americans have no idea what a Maybach is.
Parent DaimlerChrysler has started to remedy that, running ads for the Maybach brand in publications such as The Wall Street Journal. An ad that ran May 9 calls it Maybach, a brand of DaimlerChrysler, with no mention of its more immediate parent, Mercedes-Benz AG. After a long passage about the heritage of Maybach, which was a famous luxury brand in Europe in the 1930s, the ad finally gets to the point: The new Maybach is on its way.
In the United States, the Maybach will be sold through Mercedes-Benz USA Inc. in Montvale, N.J. It was conceived, developed and built by Mercedes. Mercedes will distribute it, and it will be sold by Mercedes dealers in Mercedes dealerships.
But Mercedes didnt call the Maybach a Mercedes, for two reasons: One, focus groups for the ultra-luxury segment said that as prospective buyers, the Mercedes three-pointed star isnt exclusive enough any more. The second reason is legal. Mercedes does not want to offer the Maybach to all of its dealers. That almost would be certain if it were called a Mercedes.
According to dealers, about 83 Mercedes-Benz dealerships of the U.S. companys 362 dealerships have signed up for the Maybach. At the current exchange rate for euros, the suggested retail price for the standard-wheelbase Maybach is about $290,000; the long-wheelbase model, about $337,000. U.S. prices have not been set.
Bentley sticker prices run from $220,485, including delivery, for the Arnage Red Label to $376,485 for the Azure Mulliner edition convertible.
U.S. Maybach sales are expected to be about 450 units annually, out of about 1,100 worldwide in 2003.
That may be small, but Maybachs market share is zero today. Any additional share has to come out of someone elses hide.