Bentley will build both a production version of the EXP 10 Speed 6 concept car and a more sporty, coupé version of the Bentayga SUV, with boss Wolfgang Dürheimer and his team deciding which to make first at the end of this year.
Explaining the decision-making process, Dürheimer told Autocar: "First we must make the investment in Bentayga return profits. Then we can consider how best to reinvest those profits.
"My feeling is that both the Speed 6 and SUV coupé will make production, but it's a question of how and when. The SUV is potentially easier and more profitable immediately because of shared parts with the Bentayga, but the Speed 6 has more potential around building the brand without, perhaps, the promise of such immediate financial returns. I hope we will be in a position to make a decision by the end of this year."
Bentley is currently investing hundreds of millions of pounds in new facilities in Crewe, as well as taking on new staff, as it bids to significantly grow its sales.
Dürheimer has been weighing up the options for Bentley's next model since June last year. A tentative launch date for whichever model is chosen would be around 2020/21.
Bentley had been expected to use the EXP10 Speed 6 concept, shown at Geneva last year, as the basis for its fifth model, a £180k two-seater to battle the Ferrari F12. But at the Shanghai show later in 2015, it raised the possibility of adding a new compact SUV, priced below the £160k Bentayga.
To put clear space between the proposed two-seat sportscar and Bentley’s big-selling Continental 2+2, Dürheimer said the two cars would have very different characters.
"We have asked our customers and they have said about the Speed 6 ‘just build it!," said Dürheimer. "They see a big difference in the two models; many have said they would take both of them."
The arrival of the two-seat sports car would not force Bentley to change the next-generation Continental, for example by making the rear-cabin bigger and more practical.
"There is often pressure to make more space inside for bigger passengers. But we are very clear the Flying Spur is for that market. The next Continental stays the same."
The two-seater would be characterised by "breathtaking" and "absolutely stunning" styling, "pure" driving manners and a four-wheel drive powertrain.Bentley’s technical director Rolf Frech says the company is "open" to a soft-top version of the Speed 6, but a decision has yet to be taken. Jim Holder and Julian Rendell