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Monday, 27 August 2012

Bentley is considering the launch of an armour-plated car range as customers in Latin America, the Middle East and Russia seek to travel in bulletproof comfort.


22:10 | ,

Bentley EXP 9 F concept car
The Bentley EXP 9 F concept car at the Geneva Motor Show. The company has not yet decided whether the SUV will go into full production. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The Crewe-based car manufacturer is exploring ways to tap into a growing market for secure vehicles in emerging economies where the threat of kidnap and assassination is constant.

Jan-Henrik Lafrentz, Bentley's finance chief, said there was demand in Latin America in particular. "We are growing in more and more markets there. For these markets, security is an issue. We are looking at the business case of doing armoured cars.

"There is also demand from Russia and the Middle East. We cannot do this for just one country. There are other countries where there is need for this."

More than eight of 10 Bentley sales are to customers outside the UK. As the vehicle of choice for James Bond in the Ian Fleming novels, Bentleys are used to hair-raising encounters, although the film versions have tended to portray 007 behind the wheel of an Aston Martin.

Bentley does not make armoured vehicles at its Crewe factory and refuses to discuss whether it has made armoured models in the past, although Prince Charles reportedly uses a bulletproof version of the Turbo R. Jaguar Land Rover, another UK-based premium carmaker, already sells armoured versions of both its key brands, produced by specialist manufacturers.

Bentley, which is owned by Volkswagen, sold just under 4,000 vehicles in the first half of the year, up 32% year on year, with US sales increasing by a quarter and Chinese sales climbing 55%. In the UK, 557 Bentleys were delivered to customers, an increase of 4.5% on the first six months of 2011.

Lafrentz said Bentley aimed to more than double car sales to 15,000 a year by 2015, boosted by new concepts such as the Bentley SUV unveiled this year at the Geneva Motor Show. He said Bentley had yet to make a final decision on whether the SUV prototype would go into full production, but it had been well received in trials with potential customers around the world.


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