It's a figure that would make any auto marketer woozy. Through May, Bentley's sales in the U.S. collapsed 53 percent, to 484 vehicles.
But Bentley's CEO for the Americas, Michael Winkler, isn't concerned. Not only is there a good reason for the drop, he's got an ace in the hole headed to dealers soon that will reverse the brand's fortunes, he says. And more aces are headed Bentley's way.
First, the precipitous sales drop.
Winkler says this was his doing and dates to the beginning of the year. It was then that Winkler told his 43 dealers that they should begin selling down their demo fleets. These fleets were relatively large for a brand with such low volume, but because Bentley is such "an emotional brand," in his words, it had needed more cars to spread the gospel.
When dealers began rolling a number of well-maintained, low-mileage demo cars into the mix, it ate into new model sales.
"Mathematically, it was very simple," Winkler told Automotive News.
This sell-down was aimed at freeing space in showrooms for Bentley's all-new Bentayga crossover, which will arrive in August. That vehicle already has about a year's worth of orders in the U.S. alone, Winkler said. This means that by the end of the year, Bentley is expecting its sales figures to have rebounded to a net gain.
Bentley hopes the sales momentum won't stop there. Several derivatives of the top-end Mulsanne sedan and the Bentayga are planned, and a decision on an entry-level sports coupe is expected soon.