British Automaker Foresees Strong Sales In Year Ahead
Starting off the new year on the right foot, Bentley announced this week that its China sales officially surpassed those in Britain for the first time ever in 2011. According to a company release, a doubling in China demand saw the British ultra-luxury automaker sell 37 percent more cars last year, making Bentley profitable for the first time since 2008. This year, buoyed by an expected rise in spending among consumers who delayed purchases in the wake of the global financial crisis, Bentley expects “robust” growth in sales and revenue, particularly in China. Bentley’s optimism about 2012 isn’t entirely the usual marketing-speak, however, as the automaker recorded sales of 1,059 vehicles in December alone, 69 percent higher than the same month in 2010, making it the strongest month since 2007 and the company’s second best month in its 92-year history.
With a 32 percent rise in sales last year, the US remains Bentley’s number one market, but the China market — which Bentley only entered less than a decade ago — is catching up quickly. China sales nearly doubled last year to 1,839 units, with the country beating its 2010 sales record before the end of July. In response to booming demand in China’s ultra-luxury auto market, Bentley intensified its inland expansion last year, opening new dealerships in second-tier cities like Xi’an, Wenzhou and Zhengzhou. To further appeal to the market, Bentley also made moves such as debuting its new Continental GT at the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show and holding its Worldwide Dealer Conference in Beijing this past summer. This year, Bentley will make one of the eight limited-edition collaborations done with the Milanese automotive and design firm Zagato available in mainland China.
With the exception of the 2010 China-only Continental Flying Spur, Bentley has been less fixated on creating localized models for the China market than competitors like Rolls-Royce. Still, inland demand and high brand recognition — as well as a penchant for becoming the first ultra-luxury automaker to enter cities like Xi’an — should see China sales increase further in 2012. While it’s far too early to project record sales, considering 2011 was a banner year for most major luxury brands (automotive or otherwise) in China, we expect sales in the ultra-luxury segment to show an uptick this year. As Jing Daily recently noted, the expansion of dealer networks we’re seeing from brands like Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin and other top-tier automakers means ever more landlocked inland millionaires and billionaires — whom top luxury brands consider some of their best clients in mainland China — will have greater access.
Expect this to be a blessing for ultra-luxury automakers, even as demand shows signs of slowing for Mercedes-Benz and BMW.