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Bentley Drifts Back to Top Tier


 

 

It’s back to basics at Bentley. That is, of course, if you consider cars costing upwards of $250,000 basic transportation.

Since splitting off from its long-time partner, Rolls-Royce, the British automaker has moved down-market, emphasizing an assortment of products highlighted by the Bentley Continental GT sports coupe. At a starting price of $176,285, the GT is priced well out of reach of 98 percent ofU.S. and European motorists, but it’s still a bargain when compared with the more traditional Bentley Arnage, which commands a “base” price of $229,985 and can more than double that sticker when the car is heavily customized.

 

Not surprisingly, it’s the Continental lineup of coupes, sedans, and convertibles that has turbocharged Bentley’s sales, nudging volume up near the 10,000 mark. Yet Stuart McCullough, the new board member overseeing sales and marketing at the Volkswagen subsidiary, thinks it may be time to shift focus a bit back to the top end of the Bentley lineup.

 

“There’s still more room for us at the top end,” he tells TheCarConnection.com, adding that, “There’s always a danger we would forget what Bentley’s heartland is, which is (products for) the top buyers.”

 

It’s coming up on the 250th anniversary for Bentley’s ultra-exclusive Mulliner unit, which began by building coaches for British royalty and which, today, handcrafts customized motor vehicles for the world’s richest buyers. Ask about some of those vehicles, though, and the normally open McCullough becomes surprisingly circumspect. These are not halo cars, at least not in the traditional sense, he explains. “The people we’re doing it for are often intensely private. Our most extravagant cars, the world never sees because they never go out in public.”

 

Or not very often, anyway. It’s not unusual for Bentley to get an order for a dozen customized vehicles, perhaps including real gold paint, which an Arab oil sheikh will then parcel out to his counterparts from other OPEC member states.

 

Bentley’s renewed emphasis on its high-line products, like the new Brooklands coupe, is not entirely surprising, according to some observers. They wonder whether booming sales of the various Continental models might undermine the exclusivity of the British brand. “That’s not for us to judge,” responded McCullough. You get the feedback from your customers and volume alone is not the determinant.”

 

So, which is more profitable, making a handful of million-dollar cars or 8000-plus Continentals? “If you’re asking if (making super-exclusive products) is a profitable enterprise, it is, though at a different scale. But it’s not a financially-driven equation. It’s about not losing the things we hold dear to Bentley.”


Related Articles

 

2008 Bentley Brooklands Preview by Marty Padgett (3/5/2007)
New two-door spun from Arnage; 550 to be built.

 

2007 Bentley Continental GT/GTC by Eric Peters (11/15/2006)

 

2007 Bentley Arnage by Eric Peters (11/15/2006)

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