A final decision on whether Bentley will go ahead with its first SUV, based on the concept from the 2011 Frankfurt show, will be made in the "relatively near future," said head of sales and marketing Kevin Rose.

"We have always said that if we decide to do it we would like it by 2015, and it would take two to two-and-a-half years to complete," he said.

"We are working as if it is going to go ahead, and I am optimistic that it will, but this would be a big investment for the group and we would be going into a market which currently does not exist."

An SUV would be "significant for volumes," said Rose, with the potential to push sales way beyond the company's 2007 record of 10,000.

"Thirty per cent of our customers have an SUV and we estimate that 90% of our sales would be capture business," Rose added. "The US would be our biggest market to begin with, with China and the Middle East picking up."

Bentley is targeting a customer base above that for the new Range Rover and the Porsche Cayenne. Maserati also plans a super-luxury SUV to challenge the Bentley, but Rose said: "We will still be the first to market, I think."

Looking further ahead, Rose sees the potential for a longer wheelbase version of the flagship Mulsanne, when the next-generation model comes along at the end of the decade, with the option of an electronic separator between driver and rear compartment.

"It's something we at looking at for China," he said.