Bentley may build its new SUV in Slovakia
Bentley unveiled the EXP 9 F SUV concept at the 2012 Geneva auto show.
LONDON (Reuters) -- Bentley may build a planned SUV in Volkswagen's factory in Slovakia.
Bentley CEO Wolfgang Schreiber said Volkswagen could give a green light for production in the next few weeks and it may opt to build the SUV outside the UK.
Discussions center around two likely locations: Slovakia's capital Bratislava, where VW makes the VW Touareg and Audi Q7, which will share underpinnings with the Bentley SUV, and Bentley's factory in Crewe, England.
Schreiber said the Bentley board supported keeping assembly in Crewe, benefiting from the brand's 4,000 staff, but it would have to make a balanced decision.
"The group board is not fighting for Bratislava. We are all together fighting for the best solution for the group and Bentley," Schreiber told reporters on Tuesday. "There also is the chance that the car may be built in Bratislava and Crewe delivers parts to Bratislava," he said.
Bentley reported an excellent start to 2013, with global deliveries up 40 percent in January and February. "We are confident to again achieve a double-digit growth rate in 2013," Schreiber said.
Bentley was bought by Volkswagen in 1998 and has been making its ultraluxury vehicles including the flagship Mulsanne sedan at the Crewe factory since 1946.
A prestigious heritage and exclusive image has kept the brand alive -- James Bond drove Bentleys in the novels by Ian Fleming -- and guaranteed its appeal to rich foreigners.
Bentley executives shrugged off a suggestion that shifting production outside the UK would harm the 'Britishness' that is central to Bentley's appeal.
Overseas buyers accounted for 87 percent of Bentley's sales in 2012, when sales grew 22 percent.
"The single most important thing is that the design and the concept is wholly British, and it is," said Kevin Rose, board member for sales and marketing at Bentley.
Schreiber said at the Detroit auto show in January that the SUV's design will resemble the rest of the Bentley brand rather following than the controversial design of the EXP 9F concept unveiled at the 2012 Geneva auto show.
The SUV likely will use an eight-cylinder engine and possibly an optional W-12, he said.
The vehicle would join similar models planned by Lamborghini and Maserati aimed at tapping into a growing market for ultraluxury SUVs among the super-rich in countries such as China and Russia.
Automotive News Europe contributed to this reportContact Automotive News