CREWE, England -- There's a battle brewing among the world's most exclusive carmakers for some of the world's wealthiest customers, and Bentley claims it has fired the first shot.
Bentley's $156,000 Continental GT coupe has drawn buyers in a neglected niche. Bentley is following the coupe with the Continental Flying Spur sedan.
"We've created a segment at this new price point," says Adrian Hallmark, Bentley marketing chief.
Bentley calls it "exclusive luxury."
The segment Bentley has staked out sits in the territory between $150,000 and $200,000. That's above the top-end premium cars such as the Mercedes-Benz S-class and BMW 7-series sedans. But it's below such ultraluxury cars as the Rolls-Royce Phantom and Maybach sedans, which sell for more than $300,000. Bentley says this segment will grow from about 3,000 annual global sales in 2003 to 15,500 by 2008.
The small sales numbers are balanced by high profit margins. And the United States will be a key battlefield as entrants challenge Bentley. (See chart on page 57.)