Bentley to build SUV, paper says
LONDON -- Bentley has told workers at its plant in Crewe, England, that it will add production of an SUV there, a move that would guarantee jobs at the factory for 14 years, according to a newspaper report Friday citing an unnamed source at the factory.
Bentley would not comment on the report in The Sentinel newspaper.
Bentley debuted the EXP 9 F SUV concept at the Geneva auto show in March. Despite harsh criticism about the concept's looks, Bentley managers have consistently argued that the SUV would be a good fit for the luxury marque.
Earlier this year, Bentley CEO Wolfgang Duerheimer told Automotive News Europe that, if it were approved, the SUV's annual sales could hit 3,500 to 5,000. That would be significant for a brand that sold 7,003 cars in 2011.
The Volkswagen Group luxury automaker said in a release on Thursday that it would extend the Crewe plant's summer shutdown period to three weeks from two weeks to "enable a number of facility changes in preparation for future productivity increases" as well as fitting in with suppliers' holidays.
The Sentinel reported that Bentley told workers the extra week's shutdown on the Continental production line was because the company supplying bodyshells couldn't keep up with demand. Bentley's statement said that it had "experienced difficulties with one of our suppliers" but added, "This is unrelated and has already been resolved with minimal impact on the business."
Bentley gets painted bodyshells for its top-selling Continental model line from VW's Zwickau, Germany, plant, which also supplies bodyshells for the VW brand's flagship Phaeton sedan.
In the first six months of the year, Bentley's sales grew 32 percent to 3,929 cars. A spokesperson said: "We remain confident that we will see good double-digit growth in 2012 overall."
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