While other luxury automakers are beginning to taper back forecasts for continued growth in the Chinese market, Bentley is taking a more bullish approach. In fact, Volkswagen’s uber-luxury brand sees China overtaking the United States to become the largest market for its vehicles.
Last year, Bentley sold some 7,003 vehicles worldwide, but Bentley CEO Wolfgang Duerheimer is hoping to achieve annual sales of 15,000 units by 2017. That would more than double last year’s performance, and it would represent a 50-percent increase over the brand’s best-ever-year, 2007.
Despite a potentially gloomy outlook for the global economy, Duerheimer isn’t worried, telling Automotive News Europe (subscription required) that, “I am assuming a robust, double-digit growth for 2012. I expect growth of more than 10 percent for Bentley in China and the United States in 2012.”
By focusing on the “undeniable potential” in continental Europe. Duerheimer hopes to generate double-digit growth in this market as well. The brand is also planning an aggressive expansion into Russia, India and South America.
One vehicle that may help in developing markets is Bentley’s oft-discussed SUV, which is still awaiting the green light from parent Volkswagen. Assuming the project is approved, Duerheimer expects annual sales of the model to be as high as 5,000 units, with the potential for 25,000 sales over the vehicle’s production life.
Bentley is expected to show its SUV concept at next week’s Geneva Motor Show, with a final decision on production coming by year-end. If the model is approved, Duerheimer wants it to come to market with Bentley’s first-ever plug-in hybrid powertrain.
We'll bring you an update on Bentley's SUV as part of our comprehensive Geneva Motor Show coverage.