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Bentley sticks with modest dealer numbers

Crystal ball: Bentley's range is likely to expand in coming years, with the EXP 10 Speed 6 concept from this year's Geneva show previewing a possible Porsche 911 rival.

Five sites in Australia is enough for Bentley despite impending Bentayga SUV

13 May 2015

BENTLEY Motors is not looking to expand its Australian dealer network, despite the imminent arrival of the Bentayga SUV and an expected sales increase in the coming years.

The network in Australia currently stands at five sites, one each in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth and another retail outlet in Auckland, New Zealand.

Bentley recently confirmed it expects to grow its global sales by 50 per cent with the introduction of the Volkswagen Group-owned brand's first SUV later this year, followed by a Australian debut likely in early 2016.

Speaking with media at the inaugural Bentley Golf Invitational in Melbourne last week, Bentley Motors South-East Asia and Australasia regional manager David Jackson said the dealer network would remain as is for now, but added that there could be changes to existing sites to help accommodate growing demand.

“We have a very strong network in Australia right now with some great partners who have been in the industry for years and years, who are tried and tested and wish to invest in Bentley,” he said.

“Which could mean bigger showrooms, it could mean more locations, it could possibly mean more partners in the future. At the minute, looking at our market projections and our network representation right now, we have what we need in order to grow and we have spare capacity in order to fulfil that as well.” Mr Jackson said the current plan looks about “five years” into the future, but added that model updates and other possible new models on the horizon could have an impact too.

He highlighted the striking EXP 10 Speed 6 coupe concept from this year's Geneva motor show as providing a “glimpse of the future,” and detailed other future variants.

“At the worldwide dealer conference a few weeks ago we saw more derivatives of Mulsanne. New incarnations of Flying Spur and Continental GT. And other derivatives of possible future cars as well.

“It's very, very exciting. I have worked in Volkswagen Group for the last 15 years and I have never seen a product line-up so strong from any of the brands.” Last year Bentley sold 11,020 cars globally – a nine per cent increase over the 2013 result – and it is expected to increase to 12,000 this year before hitting a predicted total of 15,000 by 2018 and 20,000 by the end of the decade.

Bentley Motors Asia Pacific regional manager of marketing and communications Silvia Saliti said while the Bentayga SUV will naturally increase sales volume, the company is always careful to maintain exclusivity for its buyers.

“If you think about Ferrari that makes 7000 car per year, we have two models on top (of that), and one body more and it is a matter of exclusivity over that,” she said. “We should sell one car less than what is needed.” In Australia, the British brand shifted 135 units compared with 121 in 2013, representing a jump of 11.6 per cent. Eighty-seven were the Continental GT and 48 were either the Flying Spur or the Mulsanne sedans.

Sales have dipped in the first four months of 2015 to 30 units, 10 sales behind where it was in the same period last year.

Mr Jackson said Bentley has placed a greater emphasis on its Mullinar bespoke program in recent years, which has become its own business unit delivering a variety of individualised Bentley products.

“Mullinar is a big focus of our business now. Previously it was a concoction of various different people and departments – sales, marketing, product, supply, engineering and manufacturing and so on.

“When we got bespoke requests from high ranking dignitaries, officials, royalty and so on, these people would come together as a team and the one-off commission or bespoke personalised car was made. But there was no real hard and fast process for this, it was not well planned it wasn't particularly well organised, it just sort of happened.

“Now that the business is getting to a level of volume and turnover, we can reinvest in our core priorities, our core credentials if you like which, in Bentley, is around personalisation, unlimited options, anything you want, within reason of course.

“There is a big focus behind it now there are now 40 people in a dedicated Mullinar team based in Crewe in England, that are all working for a director of Mullinar, who is heading this up as a stand alone business profit centre.” Mr Jackson said the Mullinar bespoke program also offers Bentley a way to present its models in a fresh light, even if they are well into their life-cycle.

“Speaking of product life-cycle and extending the exclusivity without having to build new models, this a very good way of achieving that offering for our customers.

“There are so many stories around the factories of very high net-worth individuals, or very important figures who want to be unique and exclusive and want that one-off that money really can't buy that no one else can copy, and Mullinar is now set up to deliver that.

While he was unable to detail any of the Mullinar projects due to confidentiality agreements, Mr Jackson said there were “quite a few” projects on the go at the moment.

He added that Mullinar has three levels of offering, including after-market retrofit to add things such as carbon-fibre or spun aluminium inlays, bodykits, wing mirrors and sports exhausts, as well as limited editions where the company looks at stories from different regions or from the Bentley archive where they have “a rich history of great stories to tell” to create a limited edition car relating to one of these stories.

Finally Mullinar also offers one-off personal commissions, with Mr Jackson highlighting the Queen's state limousine that was built in 2002, as an example.

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