Bentley chief executives

After two consecutive years posting losses in its balance book, Bentley is back in the black as the figures came in for the close of 2011. But don't think for one minute that the ultra-luxe British marque is about to stop there. No, Bentley's new CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer (pictured above, right) has big plans for the company, and having headed product development at Porsche for years, that can only mean one thing: more new vehicles. More types of vehicles, more bodystyles and more derivatives.

The biggest potential item in the pipeline is an SUV, a plan which Bentley has had in the making for some time now and which Dürheimer recently indicated in a conference call will be decided on soon. The Bentley of sport-utes would be significantly more upscale than anything currently offered, with a price tag upwards of $140,000, with underpinnings borrowed from the Porsche Cayenne which Dürheimer helped launch himself.

Beyond the SUV, the Bentley chief executive also hinted at a new sportscar range that would include a two-seat coupe, a hardtop convertible and even a racing version. The model would likely take the fight more directly to Aston Martin, against whose smaller GTs the larger Continental GT range currently competes with.

On the sales front, The Flying B was the first automaker to report its December figures and the 2011 calendar year as a whole, with global sales up 37 percent last year to 7,003 units. Sales for December were also up 69 percent versus 2010 to 1,059 cars, which Bentley claims is its second-best sales month of all time and best since the recession began.

What's more interesting is how Bentley sales break down geographically. The U.S. remains the brand's best-selling market with 2,021 cars sold, but sales in China "virtually doubled" last year to 1,839 units. In fact, the Chinese had already bought more Bentleys by last July than they did in all of 2010. With that kind of momentum, China should easily overtake the U.S. as as the automaker's best customer base in 2012. Even struggling Europeans managed to increase their appetites, buying 53 percent more last year than the year before. Follow the jump for the latest statement on Bentley's financial health.
Show full PR text
BENTLEY SALES BOUNCE BACK

- Global sales up 37% with 7003 deliveries to customers
- December sales (1059 cars) - best single month since recession and second highest ever
- America still Bentley's number one market with sales up by over a third to 2021
- China confirms number two status with sales virtually doubling to a record 1839
- All major markets increased with Europe up by over a half due mainly to high demand in Germany, up by nearly 90%
- New Continental GT coupe and Mulsanne drive sales with new Continental GTC off to a flying start

Crewe, 3rd January 2012: Bentley bounced back to pre-recession levels of demand during 2011, with strong growth in all major markets. Globally, sales were up 37% to 7003 for the calendar year with sales accelerating as the year progressed. December sales were 1059 (up 69% on the same month in 2010), the best month since Bentley's pre-recession record of 2007 and the second best month ever.

The US continues to be Bentley's number one market with 2021 cars sold in 2011, an increase of 32%. For the first time ever, however, China took second spot with sales for the region virtually doubling to 1839 and surpassing the previous year's record before the end of July. This achievement is even more remarkable considering Bentley has been present in Mainland China for less than ten years.

Other regions have also performed very well. Continental European sales rebounded to 1187 (an increase of 53%) led by strong demand in Germany where sales have increased by a remarkable 88%. The UK proved to be extremely challenging over the past months, but still saw an increase of over five per cent with 1031 cars sold. Indeed, all major markets are up including the Middle East despite the political instability that has beset certain markets.

Bentley's Chairman and Chief Executive, Wolfgang Dürheimer, said:

"It has been a tremendously good year for Bentley. The dramatic sales growth reflects a global strength to the Brand and a recognition of the quality, craftsmanship and engineering excellence of our cars. It is also testament to the work of the entire Bentley Team whose passion and daily commitment has delivered this outstanding result. It has been particularly pleasing to see renewed interest in Bentley in established as well as and new and emerging markets, all of which is contributing to a positive financial result for 2011.

"We want that success to continue and, with a new Continental V8 set to attract new customers in 2012, have ambitious but realistic plans which reflect global economic conditions as much as our new product line up."

The strong performance was the result of strong demand across the range, with the new Continental GT unsurprisingly proving the most popular Bentley with 2404 GTs delivered - over a third of Bentley's total sales volume. Sales were boosted significantly in December with the first deliveries of the new soft-top Continental GTC, a new model which has receivedfantastic reviews from media and customers alike. Together with the Bentley Mulsanne, which continues to maintain a healthy order bank constantly replenished as more customers get to drive the flagship Bentley, sales growth is expected to continue unabated during 2012.