Bentley will accelerate plans to introduce models which can run on biofuels by launching its first such vehicle at the Geneva motor show next March.

Sales and marketing chief Stuart Mccullough did not give further details at Detroit but said the company was pressing ahead with plans to have its entire range biofuel-capable by 2012.

He said worldwide sales of luxury vehicles fell 20% in 2008 while Bentley sales were off 24% to 7,604, down on the record 2007. He added the automaker had taken a number of steps to combat the downturn.

These include increasing exports to China and the Middle East, up 53% and 18% respectively. Bentley also reduced output at its UK factory at the end of last year. McCullough said the downtime would be re-used to update workforce training while more apprentices would be hired to secure the company’s future.

Here in Detroit, Bentley is launching its updated Continental GTC to US buyers and has added a Speed version to bring the convertible range in line with other GT models.

McCullough said new model introductions, such as the GT Speed in the past year, had increased sales showing the importance of new models in the luxury segment.

Bentley hopes the facelifted GTC Speed will appeal to Middle East and developing market buyers as it tries to boost flagging sales elsewhere.