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Bentley sheds half its volume in two years

Top level: The Bentley Mulsanne will rival the Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Bentley sales will drop to 5000 in 2009, but senior executive tips a rebound

14 Dec 2009

BENTLEY has shed half its global volume in two years, but a senior executive says the future is bright.

The British brand’s global sales will come in at about 5000 cars this year, representing a dramatic decline from its bumper year of 2007 in which it sold 10,000 cars.

Bentley Motors regional director Geoff Dowding told GoAuto that the company was expecting sales to recover, but was not banking on it.

“According to our estimates, 2010 is going to be much better than 2009, but one has to be sensible, the business is being very sensible with its budgets, forecasts and predictions,” he said.

“We are basing ourselves on a worst case rather than best case. Recovery will be slow. You can’t accelerate out of a recession in the way that we would all like to, you have to be responsible about it.”

Bentley sold 7000 cars in 2008 before the worst of the global financial crisis hit this year. Mr Dowding said Bentley sales in western markets, including the US and Europe dropped by almost 50 per cent this year, but it was a different story in emerging markets such as China and the Middle East.

 center image Left: Rolls-Royce Phantom.

“We will do more cars in China than we did last year, it is growing at a tremendous rate, and our sales in the Middle East will remain steady,” he said.

“They are our emerging markets and they are underpinning a lot of what we do at the moment,” he said.

Bentley revealed its new flagship, the Mulsanne, which will replace the ageing Arnage at the top of the brand’s model tree, at September’s Frankfurt motor show.

Mr Dowding said that revealing its new Rolls-Royce Phantom rival in the middle of a global downturn was no bad thing.

“It did us no harm to launch it now,” he said.

Mr Dowding said the new model demonstrated Bentley was committed to investing in new product.

Besides, he said, the economic climate would likely have improved before the new car was launched.

“The car will not hit the markets until the end of next year, by which time, everyone is predicting there will be an economic recovery,” he said.

Mr Dowding said new vehicles, including the Mulsanne, would help the economy recover.

“Producing new product is often the way in which you climb out of that because people say ‘I like that, I’ll have it’, and away you go.”

Mr Dowding said no one really knew what was going to happen with the global economy, but said the signs were positive.

“All the indicators that you look at, trends in the last three, four, five months in terms of overall market sales, new products, forecasting experts, the feel factors, other indicators within economies be it interest rates, be it house prices, be it stock markets and so on, you put all of those in a little pot and that all indicates that many industries will be in line for economic recovery,” he said.

“There is nothing to suggest today that it will get any worse.”

However, Mr Dowding doesn’t expect Bentley to have another 2007 any time soon.

“Will it return to the levels, for us for example of 2007? In the short term, no, we don’t think it will.”

But he said Bentley, owned by the massive Volkswagen Group, was now lean enough that it did not need to produce that many cars.

“2007 was a great year, in terms of product life cycle everything was at its peak, economically the world was at its strongest. We ended up with a volume that we never took for granted. 10,000 cars was never the business plan,” he said.

“Are we looking for 10,000 cars again? No, we are not.”

Bentley is looking to a series of performance models to help keep its sales moving along.

It has developed a series of GT Speed versions of its Continental and Flying Spur and has just introduced the Continental Supersports, the fastest ever Bentley, which Mr Dowding was in Australia to launch last week.

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