VENICE, Italy – Bentley will not sell models built in Germany in the UK or the US, says marketing director Adrian Hallmark.
Buyers in those two countries expect a British luxury car to be made in England.
But customers in mainland Europe are not so discerning.
Research shows that customers in the UK and North America would not accept a Bentley built outside England, said Hallmark during a press briefing here. For buyers in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Holland the idea is not so negative.
Bentley may shift some production of its new Continental Flying Spur four-door sedan to parent Volkswagens under-used assembly plant in Dresden, Germany, to counter a production bottleneck at its Crewe, England, factory.
The first Flying Spur deliveries will probably go to UK customers in June.
To meet initial demand for the Flying Spur, some cars may be assembled from kits in the Dresden factory, which builds the slow-selling VW Phaeton.
Workers in Dresden would handle about one-third of the 170 hours required to make each car. Crewe workers would need more time because they would remain responsible for time-consuming tasks such as engine building and wood and leather work.
Hallmark said a decision would be made in the next couple months about the plan to use Dresden to make a couple hundred cars a year.
Bentleys recent decision to produce a convertible version of the Arnage, to be called the Drophead Coupe, will add to capacity pressure at Crewe. Drophead Coupe deliveries will begin next spring.
Dresden could provide temporary overflow volume for a couple of years, Hallmark said, adding that Bentley needs another place to assemble cars to meet demand for the next 12 to 18 months.
Bentleys volume dilemma stems from its rapid growth and uncertainty about what its volume will be once the Flying Spur moves beyond launch phase.
Less than two years ago Bentley made about 1,000 units a year of its one model, the ultra-luxury Arnage. In January 2004, Bentley launched the Continental GT. The model has been a runaway success – so far 7,500 Continental GTs have been delivered worldwide.
Hallmark expects the GT to average about 3,000 units a year over its life cycle. He reckons future sales of the GT and the Flying Spur will be split evenly.
Bentley plans to dedicate most production during the first half of this year to the GT, then to make mostly Flying Spurs starting in July.
The GT and Flying Spur will cost the same – E144,450 plus taxes.
Bentley Chairman Franz-Josef Paefgen said the plan was to reach the end of this year with a GT waiting list of up to six months, and then to mix 2006 production between the GT and the Flying Spur as needed.
Bentley, he said, would be profitable at 7,000 units a year, or maybe 5,000 eventually. But, he stressed, volume must take its own course: We dont want to push the market.