Bentley has confirmed it is working on two new models to follow the Bentayga 4x4 as part of a relentless drive that will more than double its already booming sales to around 25,000 cars a year
The cars are a more compact SUV priced around £120,000, and several production versions of its recently shown EXP10 Speed Six 'Aston chaser' concept - now tipped to include a 200mph, four-wheel-drive battery electric model.
Bentley's new small SUV, sized between Porsche's Cayenne and Macan SUV models, will be the first of the new models to show. In showrooms in about three years, it will use a high proportion of Bentayga chassis and running gear, which means a high-performance model could conceivably be powered by the Bentayga's new 6.0-litre, 600bhp W12, as well as the V8, diesel and hybrid powertrains Bentley also has up its sleeve. "It'll be a matter of plug and play," said Durheimer.
The model, for which a name has not yet been found, will introduce an even more modern styling direction for Bentley, while keeping an easy-to-see relationship with the existing cars. It has yet to receive the go-ahead from VW's top management, though engineering director Rolf Frech said the project has already reached the design and initial engineering stage.
CEO Durheimer is justifiably confident that his bosses, who are already impressed with the money-generating power of Bentayga, will see the logic of a smaller, slightly cheaper and extremely fast SUV built using a high proportion of Bentayga parts.
The new SUV, which Bentley believes will attract a type of younger buyer the company has never seen before, will take precedence over the new sports car, which had been thought to be the next in line. The new, small soft-roader is likely to be shown at least in concept form late in 2017, and should send Bentley's total annual volume beyond 18,000 when it hits the market about a year later.
The EXP10 Speed Six concept, also awaiting final approval, received such wholehearted approval from potential customers when first shown at Geneva last March that Durheimer expects production versions to resemble the concept closely in styling and major dimensions. No launch date has been given, but the model won't go on sale until the small SUV has been completed, so a date around 2020 is probable.
The most common version is likely to be powered by Bentley's Audi-related petrol V8, but newly announced headline-grabber is a twin-motor, four-wheel-drive, all-electric model with 400 to 500bhp on tap and its electric motors driving through three-stepped automatic gearboxes to give a top speed around 200mph, with huge acceleration and a range of 500km (about 300miles).
Engineers hope new developments in battery technology will allow weight to be restricted to 2000kg, not so much more than a conventionally powered Aston Martin. "We believe battery technology are reaching a point of where such vehicles are making sense," says Durheimer. "And the performance will be stunning."
The developments were revealed in Spain by Bentley's chairman and CEO, Wolfgang Durheimer, at an early driving event for the full-size Bentayga SUV, production of which begins at Crewe in a fortnight's time for deliveries early next year.
The two new cars will bring unprecedented expansion to Crewe: Durheimer has already created 1000 new jobs inside Bentley and, with surrounding suppliers, has embarked on a three-year, £840m spending programme. During yesterday's announcement he claimed the famous Pym's Lane works as the first outpost of the government's much-vaunted "northern powerhouse".
Bentayga booms even before launch
Volume predictions for Bentley's soon-to-launch Bentayga flagship SUV have already been revised upward, from 3600 units a year to 5500, as a result of strong forward orders, said chairman and CEO Wolfgang Durheimer.
"We are very pleased with the reception the model has had," says Durheimer, "especially since our estimates are based only on W12 sales and we have the V8, diesel and V6 hybrid models to launch. It is easy to imagine the Bentayga accounting for 50% of all Bentley sales in a relatively short time."
During 2015 China has slipped from its position as Bentley's biggest market, the CEO said, leaving the US market once again as Bentley's strongest. Second biggest is Europe, buoyed by especially strong demand from the UK, and China is now third.
But Durheimer believed flagging Chinese demand is already showing signs of turning, and Bentayga will be further boosted boosted by growing demand from countries such as Russia, Africa and the Middle East, where its all-road ability will be especially valued.