Bentley delivered a record 11,020 cars last year around the world and it is on course to top that mark as it beats ultraluxury rivals such as Maserati, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce to market with an SUV, the Bentayga.
The Volkswagen Group subsidiary expects to increase annual sales to 20,000 by 2020 after previously targeting 15,000 deliveries by 2018. Bentley CEO Wolfgang Duerheimer, 56, shared his outlook for the brand with Automotive News Europe Managing Editor Douglas A. Bolduc.
Q: How does 2015 look for Bentley?
A: While it's too early to predict what's going to happen in 2015 because of all the uncertainties, our outlook is very optimistic. We believe that our strong markets will remain strong. My outlook is also underlined by the fact that the number of high-net-worth individuals is growing worldwide. This is a big business opportunity for us. We are ready to go.
What about the entire ultraluxury market?
The market for vehicles above 100,000 euros ($112,000) is probably about 50,000 cars. Most others are not growing as quickly as us. No one sells as many cars that cost more than 150,000 euros ($170,000) than we do. We have a big share of that sector.
More than 4,000 potential customers have expressed interest in Bentley's new SUV. How will that affect the brand?
The news about the new SUV is stirring up the market. We are very optimistic that we took the right decision. And the feedback we're getting from potential customers is very good. Our dealers are delighted. We are attracting more showroom traffic than in the past as we have become interesting to people who have not purchased a Bentley before.
How is Bentley preparing for the Bentayga?
We have started an intensive sales and marketing program. We are looking at things such as what kind of used cars we will take as trade-ins, whether we have enough space in the dealership workshops, whether our parking lots are big enough, what kind of display areas do we need to show the product properly. We are also pushing for brand separation. We want to have more stand-alone Bentley dealers because we are getting to the critical size to justify no longer needing to partner with another brand. We can stand alone in a lot of markets.
With which brands does Bentley usually share showrooms?
Luxury brands. Sometimes it's Rolls-Royce. Sometimes it's Maserati and Lamborghini or Ferrari.
How many dealers does Bentley have?
We have 205 dealers in 56 locations around the world.
Is the goal to have all stand-alone dealerships?
It depends on their size. What we prefer is that the dealership is located in an area with more than one luxury brand. But Bentleys shouldn't be in the same showroom without some sort of separation from the other brands.
How do CO2 regulations affect Bentley?
We have our emission targets, which are very well aligned with Volkswagen Group. We call it an equal-pain scenario for every brand. Whoever has big engines and a comparably higher share of emissions needs to reduce more. We are reducing emissions with new engine technology on all our model lines. We have a brand new turbo V-8. Our first diesel will be offered in the SUV, and we will also introduce a plug-in hybrid in the SUV. We are making consistent steps in the right direction to fulfill all our legislative requirements in all critical areas.
Has the collapse of sales in Russia affected Bentley?
The Ukraine crisis affected us by reducing optimism in Russia around the middle of the year, but by the end of the year Russia rebounded. Our sales there increased 1 percent giving Russia a 2 percent share of Bentley's global sales.
Did Bentley have to adjust prices?
Yes. We increased prices in Russia when we saw that the ruble was coming down and we were still able to lock in the deals.
How does Bentley win customers from its rivals?
First, we will stick to our DNA, which is luxury performance. Luxury means having the best possible quality and fulfilling every customer's request. If you want the car in the same color as your wife's favorite nail polish we will paint it this color. We also want to be the performance leader in the segment. That means high-performance engines, very good torque and the best drive-ability. This comes from our 12-cylinder engine. We think it's a defining element of luxury in the car industry. No other engine runs as smooth. We are getting a new 12-cylinder engine ready for the SUV that will have state-of-the-art technology.