Bentley eyes up smaller SUV to follow full-size model

Bentley eyes up smaller SUV to follow full-size model

Bentley Motors will reveal production versions of its new SUV this year and is already eyeing extra future models that could include a second, smaller SUV, according to chairman and CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer.

Reviewing results of the company's fifth straight record year, which show a nine per cent increase in sales to 11,020 cars, 87 per cent of which were exported, Dürheimer revealed his enthusiasm for the SUV market, which he said is "expanding three times faster than the market as a whole".

Previous predictions of annual sales of 3000 for the full-size SUV "could be conservative" said Dürheimer, who is working towards building 20,000 cars a year at Crewe by 2020. The company says it already has 4000 serious "expressions of interest" in the big SUV, which is yet to be seen by customers.

To reach its aggressive production targets, Bentley will spend £280m this year on building a new R&D centre, across the road from its traditional Pyms Lane site, and add 300 new jobs to its workforce, making 1300 in all. By 2016 total expenditure to ensure that capacity at Crewe "is no longer an issue" will amount to £840 million, Dürheimer said.

The new "ultra-luxury" SUV is in its final test phase, said Dürheimer, who showed journalists a video of a W12-engined prototype attacking Dubai's famously difficult Big Red sand dune, and easily reaching the top.

The car will come in W12, V8 and plug-in hybrid guises, he revealed, the latter capable of travelling 30 miles on battery power alone, to cope with future zero-emission legislation in cities. "This will be a very luxurious model," he said, "but it will also be very fast and very capable."

Talking of the potential for a smaller SUV, Dürheimer admitted that "there are other SUVs on the market that show the potential in that area. This derivative is definitely one of the ideas we have, but our store of ideas gets bigger and bigger." Dürheimer has previously spoken of other possible small Bentley derivatives, including a two-seater sports car.