China Ahead Of US In Race To Become Bentley’s Top Market

China Sales Up 66 Percent At Start Of 2012, With US Deliveries Up 29 Percent

The Bentley Mulsanne has proven immensely popular in the China market

The Bentley Mulsanne has proven immensely popular in the China market (Image courtesy Bentley)

As Lamborghini frets an ultra-luxury auto slowdown in China in 2012, the latest sales figures out of the country give plenty of cause for optimism for the British automaker Bentley. Last month, Christian Mastro, Lamborghini’s Asia Pacific general manager, said he expected supercar sales to increase around 25 percent this year to around 2,000 units, compared to a doubling in the market in 2011, with Rolls-Royce Chief Executive Officer Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes echoing Mastro’s sentiment by saying growth in the sector would be less “explosive” this year. But in the run-up to the Geneva Motorshow, Bentley execs seem confident that rising demand in key markets like the US and China will keep boosting the segment throughout 2012. According to company figures released today, Bentley recorded a global increase of 47 percent year-on-year in all major regions, with 894 cars delivered in the first two months of the year. Despite drawn-out economic gloom, Europe and the UK recorded respective sales increases of 39 percent and 16 percent, while the Middle East recorded a strong 55 percent rise with 93 cars delivered to customers.

But as usual, it’s the China market that everyone is watching this year. In 2011, Bentley’s China sales surpassed the UK for the first time ever, with the company selling 1,839 cars there over the course of the year and beating its 2010 China 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 last summer. This year, tapping demand for custom and hard-to-get cars, Bentley will make one of the eight limited-edition collaborations done with the Milanese automotive and design firm Zagato available in mainland China.

Based on sales reports since the beginning of this year, all of Bentley’s moves in the China market have kept interest high, and now the country is going head-to-head with the United States to become the British automaker’s largest global market. In the first two months of the year, China sales got off to a head start, with 324 cars delivered (a 66 percent increase year-on-year) to the 251 cars delivered in the US over the same period. While not as dramatic as China’s increase, this marks an impressive 29 percent increase in the US year-on-year.

Bentley's Wolfgang Dürheimer at the 2011 Shanghai International Auto Show

Bentley's Wolfgang Dürheimer at the 2011 Shanghai International Auto Show

Bentley attributed its strong sales in key markets like China and the Middle East to strong demand for its new GT and recently launched Continental GTC, which saw 265 and 214 cars delivered respectively in January and February. However, the company expects an additional sales surge upon the release of the first Continental V8s in the second quarter of the year. Interest in emerging markets like China for the Mulsanne is also expected to add up to a record year for Bentley, and execs remain bullish about the prospects in China for the two-door Continental GT. Despite China’s reputation as a “four-door market” and the land of the extended-cab sedan (and personal driver), Bentley said this week that Chinese buyers are becoming more interested in smaller sports cars.

As Bentley’s Chairman and Chief Executive, Wolfgang Dürheimer, said today of the China market, “Chinese customers are increasingly like any other. They turn to Bentley for the finest craftsmanship and luxury combined with high technology and performance. This combination makes us unique as Bentley is as much about driving as being driven.”


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