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Auto blogThu, 11 Oct 2012 14:16:00 EST
After surveying the European economic scene, Volkswagen may have decided now is not the time to launch utility vehicles with Bentley and Lamborghini badges. Bentley officials say they will continue to push for support for the EXP 9 F and Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelman has said planning for the Urus will continue until VW tells it to stop.
That decision could come on November 23, when VW's board will vote on the company's budget for equipment, factories and vehicles. With VW's sales slowing and the Euro economy slumping further, some industry watchers say the company is more likely to build its cash reserves than to introduce super-expensive luxury SUVs or crossovers.
"Such vehicles are anything but obligatory during a crisis," says Frankfurt-based Equinet AG analyst Tim Schuldt in a new Automotive News Europe story. "Delaying their launch would be no drama but help save costs."
Would a Bentley be a Bentley if it weren't manufactured in Great Britain? Would a Lamborghini be a Lamborghini if it were built outside of Italy? It may be hard to say either way, but we might find out sooner than later, because the latest word coming in from Europe is that the Volkswagen Group is considering expanding production for both these upscale brands outside their traditional homes.
According to the Autovisie section of Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, the issue for both automakers comes down to their ambitious expansion programs. Both Bentley and Lamborghini plan to launch new SUVs - the former's being well under way, the latter's still awaiting approval - that would expand their annual production considerably: by 50 percent in Bentley's case, and by as much as 100 percent in Lamborghini's.
For now, both marques intend to handle the added production with additional assembly lines at their current facilities in Crewe and Sant'Agata Bolognese, respectively. But both could soon outgrow their relatively small plants - and with the Volkswagen Group operating countless factories across Europe and around the world, it wouldn't be hard to see these manufacturers shifting excess production outside of their home countries.
Between Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley and Bugatti, the Volkswagen Group has no lack of prestige marques under its umbrella. And while some of these marques may produce models that compete against each other, each seems to be profitable enough in its own right to justify its existence. But what about Bentley and Bugatti? Surely these marques cater to the same customers, right?
Not according to their shared CEO. "The clientele between Bentley and Bugatti is remarkably different," said Wolfgang Dürheimer in an interview with Bloomberg. "The Bentley customer on average owns 8 cars. The average Bugatti customer has about 84 cars, 3 jets and 1 yacht."
That may be a slight exaggeration (we'd have expected three yachts and one jet), but it puts things into perspective: Bentleys are for the one percent. Bugattis are for the one percent of that one percent. Which only goes to show why it's taken Bugatti over eight years to sell 450 Veyrons - a number of units it would take Bentley about two weeks to move, albeit at about one tenth the price.