LONDON (Reuters) -- Bentley expects its first SUV to help almost double its annual vehicle sales by 2020 after reporting record deliveries last year.
Volkswagen Group-owned Bentley expects to increase sales to 20,000 a year by 2020, a spokesman said, after previously targeting 15,000 deliveries by 2018.
"We think the success of the SUV will lift us into a new dimension," CEO Wolfgang Duerheimer said at a press conference in London on Wednesday, adding the vehicle would be unveiled this year, potentially at the Geneva auto show in March.
"The Bentley SUV will be the most exclusive, most luxurious and most expensive SUV in the world," Duerheimer said, showing a video of the car driving up sand dunes. "The level of luxury will be extraordinary."
The SUV may cost about 180,000 euros ($214,000) and is part of a move to expand beyond sedans and coupes: the Continental GT, the Flying Spur and Mulsanne.
The new vehicle will compete with the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, the Mercedes-Benz GL63 AMG and the top-of-the-line Range Rover. Yesterday, Rolls-Royce said it would decide this year whether to join the fray with its own SUV model.
More than 4,000 potential customers already have expressed an interest in the SUV without having seen it, Bentley has said, leading sales chief Kevin Rose to say a forecast of selling 3,000 SUVs a year could be conservative.
First deliveries of the SUV will be made next year.
Bentley delivered a record 11,020 vehicles in 2014, 9 percent more than in 2013, with growth powered by demand from China.
Geopolitical risks made it impossible to project Bentley's sales performance in 2015 but it was preparing for "a very strong year again," Duerheimer said.
Last year's sales in Russia, where the ruble has been hammered by slumping oil prices and Western sanctions related to the crisis in Ukraine, were in line with 2013 levels, Rose said, predicting a similar outcome for 2015.
Russian sales account for about 2 percent of Bentley's global volume and totaled about 230 vehicles, a spokesman said.
The Americas remained Bentley's biggest market in 2014, contributing 29 percent to total sales, with China coming a close second, after sales there jumped 22 percent from the previous year to 2,160 units.
Bentley's strong growth in China came despite analysts warning of an end to the country's 10-year luxury car sales boom, which has been hit by President Xi Jinping's crackdown on extravagance by government officials.
"In terms of growth, China is still the most important and most interesting region," Duerheimer said.
Rose said Bentley had around a 35 percent share of China's ultraluxury car market and that its customers there tended to be entrepreneurs not affected by the crackdown as much as government employees.
Bloomberg contributed to this report