Bentley has been quiet on a launch date for a production version of the EXP 9F, though most estimates put it somewhere in the next year or two.
This relatively short gestation period is possible due to the Bentley SUV sharing a platform with the next-generation Audi Q7, which has been testing on public roads since early this year.
Now it’s been revealed that Bentley is extending the summer shutdown period at its plant in Crewe, England, and has told workers that it will be adding production of an SUV there eventually. The information was revealed to The Sentinel newspaper by an unnamed employee of the automaker.
Bentley’s plant, which employs close to 4,000 people, will be closed for three weeks during August, rather than the traditional two. While originally this was thought to be due to the delay of some components for existing models, Bentley has denied this, stating that the extended shutdown is based upon a need to adjust the current production plan to align the company with key supplier holiday times as well as enable a number of facility changes in preparation for future productivity increases.
It is this latter reason that has got the Internet buzzing with suggestions that Bentley could be doing the initial preparation work for the new SUV.
The launch of the new SUV is expected to significantly boost Bentley’s annual sales, adding around 3,500 to as much as 5,000 units to the automaker’s 2011 sales tally of just over 7,000 cars. The key to the rapid growth is emerging markets like China, Russia and the Middle East, but also the U.S., which still has an insatiable appetitive for SUVs.
At the 2012 Beijing Auto Show earlier today Bentley confirmed that several powertrain options are being considered for the SUV, including its lightweight 4.0-liter V-8 for a sporty model, the 6.0-liter W-12 for the range-topper and potentially even a plug-in hybrid setup for eco-conscious buyers.