Bentley boosts work force ahead of SUV output

Bentley released this teaser image of its forthcoming SUV in March.
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Bentley Motors will create 140 new jobs at its headquarters in Crewe, England, as it gears up to begin output of its first SUV and it prepares to add hybrid powertrains to the lineup.

Ninety of the new hires will be engineers and the rest will be apprentices, Bentley said in a statement on Monday. Bentley currently employs 3,700 workers in Crewe.

The recruitment is part of a wider plan by the Volkswagen Group unit to invest 800 million pounds (981 million euros) over three years in its UK base to add the SUV and upgrade the factory.

Bentley expects the crossover to play a key role in boosting the automaker's annual sales to 15,000 by 2018, a rise of almost 50 percent over last year's record volume of 10,120.

"For the SUV we anticipate a sales volume of 3,000 per year, so this will play a key role in helping us hit the 2018 target," a Bentley spokesman told Automotive News Europe.

Bentley will import SUV bodies from VW Group's plant in Bratislava, Slovakia, where the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7 and VW Touareg are made. Bentley will complete the SUVs in Crewe, the spokesman added.

Bentley received mixed reviews after it unveiled the EXP 9 F SUV concept at the 2012 Geneva auto show. The automaker released a new partial image of the SUV in March that showed a heavily revised front end. A production version of the SUV is likely to debut at the Frankfurt auto show next year.

2,000 advanced orders

Bentley says it has 2,000 advance orders for the SUV, which it claims will create a new sub-segment for ultraluxury crossovers. Bentley says its vehicle will be priced above models such as the top-of-the-line Range Rover, which costs about 140,000 pounds.

The biggest market for Bentley's SUV is expected to be the United States, followed by China and the UK. Rival Rolls-Royce is still deciding whether to add a SUV to its lineup while sports car makers Maserati and Lamborghini have promised to join the segment within the next two years.

You can reach David Jolley at djolley@crain.com.

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