Bentley Mulsanne: One Eye On The China Market?

Will Bentley Follow The Success Of Rolls-Royce In The Chinese Market? Or Will More Chinese Luxury Buyers Opt For Rival Brands?

The Bentley Mulsanne includes many features popular in the Chinese market, such as a spacious interior and chauffeur-ready driver's seat

The Bentley Mulsanne includes many features popular in the Chinese market, such as a spacious interior and chauffeur-ready driver's seat (Photo: Motor Authority)

With the global doldrums cutting into the vehicle budgets of many luxury consumers in developed markets like North America, Japan and Europe, high-end car companies like Rolls-Royce have increasingly looked to emerging markets like China to get them through the economic crisis and create a new, loyal buyer’s market. As Chinese luxury models become more prevalent (and popular) over time and truly begin to rival the dominant luxury models by BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, automakers at the highest end are already starting to plan ahead for a strong China strategy to ensure their brands remain at the top of the heap for years to come.

Following the lead of the 2010 Porsche Panamera, which was unveiled at this year’s Shanghai Auto Show, Bentley has taken the lid off of its 2011 Mulsanne, with what is sure to be an eye towards the Chinese market — where the country’s ultra-rich still have no domestic alternative that can match Bentley quality. After making its initial debut in August, the Mulsanne has become the talk of the high-end luxury scene, not least because it is the first all-new Bentley model to roll off the production line since the 1930s. As Motor Authority writes, though this car is most certainly beyond the budgets of most lustful car enthusiasts, it is a sight to behold and has an engine to match:

Named for the 90-degree turn at Le Mans, the Mulsanne arrives in the middle of next year with a pricetag likely approaching $300,000, before any custom finishes or materials are specified.

The design’s a blend of a traditional silhouette with some modern detailing, less so than the smaller Continental range. Echoing the Bentley S-Type of the 1950s, the Mulsanne features a bold frontal design dominated by the traditional Bentley matrix grille and highly prominent round inner headlamps with chrome surrounds, flanked by two smaller outboard lamp clusters. The iconic ‘Flying B’ retractable radiator mascot is available as an option. Uniquely designed 20-inch wheels (and optional 21-inch) reinforce the Mulsanne’s powerful, sporting stance.

So what does this powerful, pricey beast have to do with China? Well, for one thing, China has rapidly emerged as one of Bentley’s most important markets, with sales increasing 93% over the previous year back in 2007, the announcement by Bentley that it expects sales in China to overtake U.S. sales by 2012, and recent reports suggesting that Bentley’s sales will show growth in 2009 despite ongoing global economic uncertainty. Since entering the Chinese market in 2001, Bentley has seen the number of its cars on the roads in China increase from a little over 100 to upwards of 1,000 — with expectations that this number will grow by 1,000 year-over-year by 2012. The Mulsanne will most definitely become a feature on the more luxurious streets in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou — where Bentley opened a new dealership to much fanfare only two months ago.

With wealthy Chinese becoming world-class investors and asset diversifiers, we can expect to see a number of these new Bentleys residing within extravagant courtyard estates and becoming the newest must-have among that country’s super-rich — alongside luxury watches and jewelry, contemporary Chinese art, fine wines and a set of top-of-the-line golf clubs.


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