Volkswagen-owned Bentley Motors is expanding its dealer network to cope with the increased sales expected once it introduces a new mid-size model, Automotive News Europe reported.

Citing global marketing chief Adrian Hallmark, the newspaper said that the UK-based luxury car maker would invest 23.5 million euros ($US21.6 million) upgrading its European dealer network in 2001.

This comes after the company, known until 2003 as Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Cars, added 14 new European dealers in 2000. Six of those are in Germany alone: in the cities of Dortmund, Dresden, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover and Stuttgart.

Automotive News Europe also reported that the new mid-size Bentley will be aimed at a growing number of buyers who want a luxury car that fits a market segemtn between DaimlerChrysler’s Mercedes-Benz S-class and Bentley’s line-up of large saloons -recently augmented by a long-wheelbase version of the Red Label Arnage limousine introduced at the Detroit motor show last month.

The newspaper quoted Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Cars CEO Tony Gottas as saying that response to the long-wheelbase Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph, first shown at the Paris motor show last September, was so positive that Bentley customers had asked for their own version. The new LWB Arnage was the result.

The LWB Bentley has a different powertrain to the Rolls-Royce equivalent, Automotive News added.

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Volkswagen Strategic Review