The car is the star in this edition of News+ as we focus on the Geneva Motor Show.
Before speaking to a senior executive with luxury car maker Bentley, we report on the mixed fortunes of the car market.
Despite the glitz, glamour and unveiling of new models at the Geneva show, the numbers tell the story for most manufacturers. Last year saw new car sales in Europe fall to their lowest in 17 years.
That means one of the few parts of the industry where they are smiling all the way to the bank is the luxury end as the most expensive motors are rolling out of the showrooms in ever increasing numbers.
China’s newly minted millionaires will be the future drivers of many of those luxury cars.
In China, sales of so called premium brands have risen by over a third, every year for the past 10 years.
Worldwide Bentley’s sales grew last year by 22 percent and 26.5 percent of its cars were bought in China, which has become the company’s second largest market.
Nial O’Reilly, euronews: “So, it is the best of times for some and the worst of times for other carmakers. Let’s hear now from the healthier end of the market with Kevin Rose, Global Sales and Marketing Director at Bentley. Mr Rose, you are unveiling your new Flying Spur at Geneva – it’s another high-price, luxury saloon – who’s buying these cars?”
Kevin Rose: “Customers come from all over, so it is customers who have (already)got a (Bentley) coupe or cabriolet in the household and want also a sedan car; it’s customers who upgrade from things like the Mercedes S Class. So we pull customers from all over; all kinds of different countries, all kinds of other cars. You have to remember that most of our customers will have anything between six and seven different cars anyhow, so this car fits perfectly into their fleet.”
euronews: “I would imagine Asia is very important for you now, but I wouldn’t expect we’ll see many of these vehicles in Europe, in the coming years?”
Kevin Rose: “Asia is probably the largest market – particularly China – for this car, followed by the Middle East and the US. We’ve seen a real growth in luxury cars in China, of course, but (also) the rest of Asia in the last few years and the Flying Spur is actually the number one car in China in this category.”
euronews: “The new Spur is packed with electronic gadgets like wi-fi – is that what the research is telling you the buyers want?”
Kevin Rose: “For the Flying Spur we have a completely new infotainment system. What’s important is that a lot of customers at some stage will be in the rear of the car, either all of the time, or part of the time, so it’s important we have something that really works for them in the back of the car. So with this product we have introduced a new system, which enable the customer to sit in the rear of the car and operate everything from a touch screen remote. So, they can operate everything from the movies to the heating system to the drive style of the car, the whole thing. You can also download an application to your smartphone and operate it from here. So, it’s really at the edge of technology in cars right now.”
euronews: “Rolls Royce, the other German owned, historic British brand, is launching its new Wraith model; going head-to-head in the same market as the Bentley Continental GT. Surely Rolls is a hard brand to compete with?”
Kevin Rose: “We cross over with Rolls Royce, especially with our Mulsanne model, but as I said before, our customers have six or seven cars so it’s very possible they have a Rolls Royce and a Bentley. We know there is great sympathy among Rolls Royce customers for Bentley and probably vice-versa. So we compete on a semi-friendly level. They are introducing a new car today as well, so we will see how this runs, but we think there’s room for both of us in the market.”
euronews: “That is the high end of the market, would a smaller, lower cost Bentley be a vehicle product that you would consider?”
Kevin Rose: “Well, we span everything from our V8 Continental right up to the Mulsanne, so in other parts of our range we’re competing also with makes like Maserati, Aston Martin, etc, so there is plenty of competition out there and of course we’re all fighting to bring out the best cars for our customers, the cars that our customers want. So the healthy competition is a good thing, we’re looking to expand with new body styles as well, we hope to introduce an SUV in the next couple of years. So the competition will keep coming and we have to keep fighting.”