On track to see China surpass its long-time largest market, the US, this year in terms of sales, the British ultra-luxury automaker Bentley pulled out all the stops this weekend in an attempt to dazzle Beijing. Kicking off its time at the Beijing Auto Show -- which opens to the public on April 27 -- Bentley and local guests celebrated the birthday of Queen Elizabeth and her Jubilee year this weekend at the grand opening of the brand's largest dealership in Asia, and one of its largest in the world, in the city's Sanlitun district. Marking the occasion by debuting the first example of its Mulsanne Diamond Jubilee Edition, only 60 of which will be made available, Richard Charlesworth, Bentley Motors Director of Royal and VIP Relations, said, “The respect and genuine interest shown towards so many aspects of British life, and most especially The Royal Family, has made China a unique experience for our marque as well as many other UK businesses.”
While we can't speak to China's interest in the British royal family, China's well-to-do have definitely shown a genuine interest in buying Bentleys. The automaker sold 1,664 vehicles to Chinese customers in 2011, and plans to accelerate its expansion in the country over the next 12 months while introducing its latest coupe and convertible Continental models this year.
With the Beijing Auto Show launching this week, Bentley's also been busy preparing its newest models for their close-up in the Chinese capital. According to a company release, the automaker will debut its new 4.0 litre, twin turbocharged Continental GT V8 and convertible counterpart this week, which should appeal to China's gearheads with a 0-60 mph sprint time of 4.6 seconds for the GT coupe (0‑100 km/h in 4.8 seconds) and a top speed of 188 mph (303 km/h). Also in Beijing, Bentley is unveiling its new SUV concept, the EXP 9 F, a new take on the Grand Touring Bentley. As the automaker sees it, the EXP 9 F could, if it goes into full production, become Bentley's third model-line, along with the bespoke Mulsanne and high-performance Continental GT, GTC and Flying Spur. The EXP 9 F concept on display in Beijing is based around the Bentley 6.0 litre, twin-turbocharged W12 petrol engine, developing 600bhp and 800 Nm of torque coupled with an 8-speed close-ratio transmission.
Considering Chinese demand has seen Porsche Cayenne sales in the country skyrocket in recent years and enticed Lamborghini to debut its own concept SUV, the Urus, this weekend ahead of the Beijing Auto Show, odds are if any one market is going to convince Bentley to launch that third product line, it's China. According to IHS Automotive, demand for luxury SUVs should rise 49 percent to 265,000 units by 2015, far outpacing the global 18 percent growth the segments will see globally. As Namrita Chow of IHS Automotive told Bloomberg this weekend, "The SUV market is one of the fastest growing segments in China...Everybody is pushing the SUV segment and therefore you have the likes of Maserati and Lamborghini bringing in models in the segment."