We met Kevin Rose, Board Member for Sales and Marketing in Bentley Motors Ltd., at the recent Qatar Motor Show, when he introduced the new Mulsanne Speed to the media in the Middle East and spoke about Bentley’s upcoming plans
There is a small story about how the new Mulsanne got the suffix ‘Speed.’ Bentley had been making an on-line film in the US on the test-driving of the Mulsanne by the land-speed record holder, Andy Green. After he had tested the car to its limits, he reportedly said, “The car is perfectly refined and silent even at 300kph – the radio was on and I could hear it as clearly as if I was merely cruising on a city road. But, can you make the car any faster?”
The Bentley designers took that suggestion as a challenge and were able to add about 26hp through engine calibration and electronically upgrading the transmission, resulting in a top speed of 305kph; and that was the genesis of the ‘Speed’ version of the Mulsanne, which was announced at the 2014 Paris Motor Show.
The Speed variant of the ultra-luxury grand tourer, featuring Bentley’s mighty 6.75-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, with advanced variable valve timing and optimised turbocharger control, is tailored for the driver, with 530bhp / 395kW power, a torque output of 1,100Nm (811lb.ft) at 1,750 rpm and with selectable sports suspension and steering on demand.
A totally redesigned combustion system, including combustion chamber, inlet ports, fuel injectors, spark plugs and compression ratio, promotes a much faster and more controlled combustion process. The re-engineered powertrain propels the Mulsanne Speed from 0 to 100kph in 4.9 seconds (or 60mph in 4.8 seconds) on to its top speed of 305kph (or 190mph).
We hear this and more from Kevin Rose, Board Member for Sales and Marketing of Bentley Motors, when we meet him at the Doha Motor Show. He explains, “On-board technology and connectivity are discreetly integrated beneath the finest materials, created with unrivalled craftsmanship and exquisite handcrafted details, representing quintessential British luxury. Being introduced to the Middle East market for the first time, the Mulsanne Speed, with its assertive Speed styling, new exclusive contemporary features and markedly improved efficiency, is set to go on sale in this region by the end of the first quarter of 2015.”
“Bentley has strengthened its position as one among the world’s most sought-after luxury car brands,” adds Kevin Rose, “We delivered a record-breaking 11,020 cars in 2014, up nine percent over the 2013 figure of 10,120 cars, with 87 percent of the cars being exported to customers around the world.”
Kevin Rose has had a long innings with the Volkswagen group, which owns Bentley. He was responsible for sales at the FAW-Volkswagen joint venture company in China before moving to Crewe.
The key regions of the Americas, China, Europe, including the UK and the Middle East, all saw strong performances, with the Americas retaining their position as Bentley’s number one market, selling 3,186 cars and accounting for 29 percent of total global deliveries, while China closed the gap as the second largest customer region.
Kevin says the Middle East also contributes to a fair share of the growth, “In this region too, we have gone from 600 cars a few years back to 1,263 cars last year, with sales led by the Flying Spur W12, the world’s fastest road-going sedan, and the Continental GT Speed Convertible, the brand’s fastest convertible model.”
But, admittedly, it was China that made the big difference, “If you take the last four years, the growth is driven primarily by China, where we used to sell only 300 to 400 cars annually but, last year, we sold 2,670 cars.”
However, as a seasoned businessman at the pulse of the global markets, he sounds cautious about the future, “For 2015, I am not sure whether we would be able to grow at the same rates mainly due to the decreased likelihood of further growth in China.”
Apart from Bentley delivering more cars than ever before, he says their geographical spread has increased, “We now operate in more markets than at any point in our 96-year history, up from 25 markets a few years back to 56 distinct markets, reflecting Bentley’s international appeal.”
This success and growth are ascribed to the increasing appeal of the brand as a result of launching new models like the Continental GT V8 S, the GT Speed coupe and convertible and the Flying Spur V8, all of which entered the market in 2014; and, now, comes the Mulsanne Speed to take care of growth over the next couple of years!
Further down the line – probably in the first quarter of 2016 – we should expect to see the first production version of Bentley’s ground-breaking luxury SUV, Bentayga, taking luxury and performance to new highs, making it the biggest product news from Bentley since the Continental GT was introduced.
“Like Continental or Flying Spur, even if there is no badge, you will be able to make out it is a Bentley,” says Kevin, “Apart from the luxury and performance that you expect from, for instance, the Mulsanne Speed, with its perfect silence at even 305kph, there is an additional dimension for an SUV – it has to perform off-road as well. Bentayga will be the first SUV with electronic stability with ride and handling of a sedan.
Details of the brand’s first SUV are still under wraps but there is one aspect that he is willing to reveal, “The production model of the Bentayga that hits the market in 2016 is going to look totally different from the concept car, which was unveiled in Geneva a few years back. Though booking for the car will open only from the middle of this year, the response is already quite overwhelming, with over 4,500 promising enquiries or ‘purchase intents,’ half of which are from customers who are new to Bentley. We are certain that Bentayga is going to be responsible for our growth over the succeeding few years.”
As to what accounts for the unusual name, “To the north of Bentley’s birthplace in England, is the dramatic beauty of the Taiga, the world’s largest transcontinental snow-forest and, to the south in the sub-tropical Canary Islands, is the rugged peak of the Roque Bentayga, which rewards the challenging climb with spectacular panoramic views of a rich and diverse landscape. That’s the source for the inspiration but we spent quite a lot of time getting to it.”
With Bentayga launching next year, Bentley has other projects set for taking off in the subsequent years with initial forays into plug-in hybrid and diesel offerings. They are also well into the development cycle for the next plug-in-hybrid capable Continental GT, a joint effort with its VW Group sibling, Porsche.
Despite the increasing production, Kevin is confident of retaining Bentley’s exclusivity, “Well, even if we were to sell 12,000 cars in a year, your car would be just one car out of over 7000 cars sold globally and, hence, it would still remain exclusive. In my view, it’s better not to have too many of our cars in one place but to spread out the market. We also like to have a wide spread of models, rather than concentrating on a few models, so that people don’t see the same car too often. Thus, by selling more and more new models into newer markets, we can still maintain our exclusivity.”
And, on that note we close our meeting.