Volkswagen AG, Europe’s largest carmaker, gave its ultra-luxury Bentley brand approval to build a sport-utility vehicle to expand beyond exclusive sedans and coupes to appeal to wealthy consumers in emerging markets.
The new model for the British marque will go on sale in 2016, creating more than 1,000 jobs in the U.K., the VW unit said today in a statement. Bentley plans to spend more than 800 million pounds ($1.23 billion) on developing the SUV and other models, as well as upgrading its headquarters in Crewe, England.
The vehicle will be the world’s most expensive SUV and will have a starting cost of around 180,000 euros ($245,000 Cdn), according to previous comments by company executives. Bentley said today that the vehicle will be the most powerful SUV on the market when it goes on sale three years from now.
The model is critical to Volkswagen’s goal to almost double Bentley’s sales to 15,000 vehicles by 2018. The addition of the SUV mimics the strategy followed by VW’s Porsche nameplate, which flanked its sports cars with the Cayenne SUV, now the brand’s best-seller.
“Bentley fans all around the world are looking forward to the brand’s first SUV,” VW CEO Martin Winterkorn said in the statement. “Together we will make this new Bentley another true Bentley – powerful, exclusive and successful.”
While the vehicle will be based on the EXP 9 F concept presented at the Geneva motor show last year, the design has changed substantially.
Bentley’s SUV prototype stuck out at its presentation in Geneva in March 2012. The car sported flourishes like picnic hampers for polo-ground tailgating, 23-inch wheels and gaping turbine-like air intakes. The car will be made in Crewe, Bentley said today. The vehicle is due to share underpinnings with the Audi Q7.
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