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Bentley asks, 'when is enough, enough?'

By Ged Bulmer, 13 Feb 2014 News

Bentley Continental V8S Cabriolet

It’s hard to imagine Toyota, Volkswagen or GM ever placing a ceiling on the number of cars they’d like to sell in a year.

In the rarefied stratosphere inhabited by super-luxury automotive brands, carefully treading the gossamer-thin line between maintaining brand exclusivity and prestige, and delivering returns for hungry shareholders, is a delicate balancing act.

Ferrari reportedly takes the position of always building one less car then there is demand for, but not even the famous prancing horse marque has been immune from criticisms that it is diminishing its brand value by expanding its range with cars like the oddball FF.

Granted, weighing the pros and cons of how many is too many is not a bad problem to have, and it’s one the German-owned British car maker Bentley may soon be grappling with.

Bentley’s global sales are flourishing; the company delivered a record 10,120 cars in 2013 – an increase of 19 per cent over 2012 and its fourth consecutive year of double digit growth.

Sales in Australia were even more bullish on a percentage basis, the crew from Crewe delivering a total of 121 cars to Aussie customers in 2013, versus 65 in 2012.

Local and international sales were spurred on last year by the launch of a new-generation Flying Spur limousine and a convertible version of the Continental GT Speed coupe.

This week two new additions were added to the luxury carmaker’s rapidly expanding line up, in the form of the Continental GT V8 S coupe and convertible.

Though first revealed at the Frankfurt motor show last September, this week’s launch in San Diego, California, was the first opportunity for the world’s media to drive the impressive new models.

The V8 S coupe and convertible are essentially enhanced versions of the Continental GT V8, which launched in Australia in 2012. Boasting more power and sharper handling, they’ll be expected to help continue the brand’s sales momentum in 2014.

Unfortunately, it’ll be mid-year before Aussie customers can get their hands on one and pricing was not available at the time of writing, but expect a sticker north of the Continental GT V8s $370,000 (coupe) and $407,000 (convertible), and south of the W12-engined Continental GT’s $405,720 (coupe) and $446,300 (convertible).

While the Continental GT V8 S coupe and convertible will add some incremental volume, the real boost to Bentley sales lies with its all-new full-size SUV, which will soon be peeking its prominent grille over the horizon.

The SUV itself could be worth as many as 3000 additional sales per annum, according to Bentley’s product PR manager, Mike Sayers, who acknowledged this would take the brand to the threshold of 15,000 sales per annum, a figure some commentators have nominated as a ceiling the organisation is comfortable with, in terms of maintaining the brand’s exclusivity.

The Brit company’s head of marketing and communications for Asia-Pacific, Robin Peel, meanwhile cautioned that, though now officially green lighted for production the SUV, won’t see light of day until late 2015, and won’t make landfall in Australia until 2016.