Bentley CEO Predicts “Robust” Growth in 2012

Last month, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler predicted demand for premium autos would outpace overall demand in 2012. In a conference call today, Bentley CEO Wolfgang Duerheimer echoed that optimism.  Both Audi and Bentley are owned by Volkswagen AG.

“Customers have become tired of pushing back purchases year after year and are returning to old buying habits,” Duerheimer said. “If the economy doesn’t let us down, there’s a good chance that we can approach the 2007 record.” In 2007, Bentley posted its best-ever annual sales of 10,014 units.

Like Stadler, he is looking to emerging markets, like China, to drive sales. Last year Volkswagen AG’s luxury brand sold 37 percent more autos in China than in 2010 and turned a profit for the first time since the 2008 global economic meltdown. That year, Bentley posted profits of 10 million euros. In 2010, Bentley posted an operating loss of 245 million euros. For the first nine months of 2011, the company posted an operating loss of six million euros.

Last year, Bentley sold 7,003 units worldwide. This year, Duerheimer expects sales to increase by a “robust” double-digit percentage.

To meet the expected increase in demand, Bentley plans to increase its current roster of dealerships by 25, from 161 to 186. The majority of the new dealerships will be in Europe, China and Russia.

Much of the new demand is expected to come from the new Continental GTC convertible model. In a statement released today, Bentley said December sales grew by 69 percent to 1,059 units and were primarily driven by the $205,000 Continental GTC convertible. December marked the second-highest monthly sales in the company’s history. Duerheimer expects demand to grow even more once the entire Continental line receives a new V8 engine. Bentley has not announced a release date for the new engine.

Duerheimer said Bentley also considering adding additional versions of the Continental and an extended-wheelbase version of the Mulsanne.  A new sport-utility vehicle may also be added to the model lineup.  The new SUV will likely be priced above $140,000.  He said he expects a decision concerning the new SUV during the first quarter.

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