LONDON -- Bentley Motors today said it will go ahead with the development of the brand's first SUV. The model will go on sale in 2016 as "the most powerful SUV in the market," the company said.
Bentley said in a statement that the SUV will be built at its Crewe, England, factory. The Volkswagen Group subsidiary did not release any technical details of the model.
The vehicle will be the world's most expensive SUV with a starting cost of about 180,000 euros ($237,000), according to previous comments by company executives.
The SUV will help Bentley expand beyond exclusive sedans and coupes and will help the brand to tap into a growing market for ultraluxury SUVs among the super-rich in countries such as China and Russia.
"This new fourth model line will leverage the success of the global SUV market," Bentley CEO Wolfgang Schreiber said in the statement.
VW CEO Martin Winterkorn said in the same statement: "Bentley fans all around the world are looking forward to the brand's first SUV. Together we will make this new Bentley another true Bentley - powerful, exclusive and successful."
The SUV will be a key model in Bentley's target to almost double sales to 15,000 vehicles by 2018. Last year, Bentley delivered 8,510 cars, up 22 percent from 2011. Operating profit jumped to 100 million euros in 2012 from 8 million a year earlier.
Bentley is targeting annual sales of between 3,000 and 4,000 of the SUV.
The addition of the SUV mimics the strategy followed by Porsche, which flanked its sports cars with the Cayenne SUV, now the brand's best-seller. The Bentley SUV likely will share the same platform as the Cayenne and the Audi Q7.
The vehicle will be based on the EXP 9 F concept unveiled at the Geneva auto show last year, but the design has changed substantially.