FRANKFURT - Volkswagen AG plans to base a lower-priced Bentley sedan on a new platform that will be shared with flagship Audi and VW models.
The new Bentley will play a key role in plans to boost Rolls-Royce's yearly production from 2,000 to 10,000. Vickers plc shareholders voted earlier this month to sell Rolls-Royce Motor Cars to VW for £430 million ($700 million). The deal is scheduled to be completed by the end of July.
VW sources say that the new Bentley will be introduced in about two years at a price of around $110,000. A Volkswagen executive said that new, upper-level Audi 'A8-plus' and 'Passat-plus-plus' sedans will use the same platform.
VW's luxury-car strategy also includes plans to revive the historic Horch brand owned by Audi AG. A small series of Horch super-luxury cars will be built by hand at a new factory in Dresden, Germany. VW sources say that the Dresden plant will be completed in about 2000. Annual production will be 40 to 50 cars.
Horch cars were produced in Zwickau, Germany, from 1904 until World War II. The company was created by August Horch, who died in 1951. Horch founded Audi in 1910.
Volkswagen has signed a letter of intent to buy Automobili Lamborghini SpA and is negotiating to acquire rights to the Bugatti brand name.
Earlier this month it announced a deal to develop a luxury sport-utility together with Porsche. BMW AG, which lost out in the bidding for Rolls, says it will develop its own super-luxury cars to rival Rolls-Royce and Bentley. BMW also said that it will terminate a four-year-old contract to deliver engines for the Silver Seraph and Bentley Arnage.
'It will take about one year until the last engine is delivered,' said a BMW spokesman. He said a clause in the 1994 contract allows for termination in case Rolls is sold to a competitor.
'It is not just the engines and the components that we don't want to give to a third party,' he said. 'It's our know-how that we don't want a com-petitor to have.'
Volkswagen says it will use its own engines. During a trip to the UK in April, VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech brought with him a Styrofoam model of VW's new W-12 and fitted it into the engine bay of a Silver Seraph. VW says it will produce eight- and 12-cylinder engines for Rolls and Bentley at Cosworth, Vickers' engine-making subsidiary in the UK. VW is offering an additional £120 million to acquire Cosworth.
Meanwhile, VW is negotiating an agreement with Rolls-Royce plc to acquire rights to the Rolls brand name. Royalty payments will be based on units sold. Rights to the Bentley name came with the acquisition of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.