Luxury marque considers moving production overseas
BENTLEY may build a planned sport-utility vehicle outside the UK, the first time the luxury automobile icon would build a complete car on foreign soil.
Rapid sales growth has kept Bentley's factory in north-west England busy, but shifting production of a new model abroad would be an unwelcome development for Britain's government.
Luxury manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover is already investigating moving its car manufacturing to India to build on growth in emerging markets with the help of Indian parent Tata Motors.
Bentley, bought by Germany's Volkswagen in 1998, has been making its ultra-luxury vehicles, including the flagship Mulsanne limousine, at the Crewe factory since 1946.
A prestigious heritage and exclusive image has kept the brand alive – James Bond drove Bentleys in the novels by Ian Fleming – and guaranteed its appeal to rich foreigners.
But Bentley executives shrugged off a suggestion that shifting production outside the UK would harm the 'Britishness' that is central to Bentley's appeal.
Overseas buyers accounted for 87pc of Bentley's turnover in 2012, when sales grew 22pc.
"The single most important thing is that the design and the concept is wholly British, and it is," said Kevin Rose, board member for sales and marketing at Bentley. (Reuters)