Autos

Britain's Rolls, Bentley Fight Luxury Battle for German Owners

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The all-new Bentley Flying Spur
Source: Bentley

British carmakers Rolls-Royceand Bentley will unveil new vehicles at the Geneva Motor Shownext week, joining battle in the fast-growing luxury end of themarket on behalf of their German owners.

BMW's Rolls-Royce will debut a two-door coupversion of its Ghost model, known as the Wraith, which thecompany says will be its most powerful vehicle yet.

Meanwhile Bentley, part of the Volkswagenempire, will unveil its updated Flying Spur, its speediest everfour-door model.

The two German-owned brands hope the new launches willextend an upturn in their markets, which has been boosted byrecovering demand in the United States and strong growth inAsia, where customers are increasingly attracted by the historyand status of brands such as Rolls-Royce and Bentley.

The United States and China have traded positions as Rollsand Bentley's largest markets in recent quarters.

"The Wraith, along with the Ghost, is there to compete withBentley's Continental GT, which at a slightly lower price hasbeen a huge success," said IHS automotive analyst ChristophSt rmer. "Bentley is looking for success with its Flying Spur,which is an all-new vehicle, because the predecessor didn'tdeliver the sales they were looking for."

"Rolls and Bentley are direct competitors and are like thelast men standing in the ultra-luxury, high-end segment so thefight for attention of the super-rich in Geneva will be fierce,"he added.

Company insiders say the Wraith, a name first used by Rollsin 1938, will produce as much as 600 horse power from atwin-turbo 6.6-litre V12 engine.

So far only two "teaser" images of the Wraith have beenreleased, showing a shallow-sloping "fastback" design similar tothat seen on smaller sports cars, while the rear appears similarto the Ghost, with the addition of large exhaust tailpipes ateither side of the vehicle.

Torsten M ller- tv s, chief executive of south eastEngland-based Rolls, is confident the new model will "drawsuperlatives" when it is unveiled in Geneva.

Bentley claims its redesigned Flying Spur, which has a6-litre, 12-cylinder engine generating 616 horsepower andcapable of reaching a top speed of 200 miles per hour, will set"a new luxury performance sedan benchmark".

The Spur has a lower, wider appearance than its predecessorwith sharp lines and gently curvaceous surfaces, according toCrewe, north west England-based Bentley.

Bentley was owned by Rolls-Royce for some 70 years, duringwhich time the pair offered similar models. However, since thetwo parted ways in 1998 they have ruled different segments ofthe ultra-luxury car market.

Rolls had tended to focus on making larger, more luxuriouscars such as the Phantom. But with the 2009 launch of the Ghost,Rolls has looked to take a slice of the market for sportierluxury cars, which Bentley dominates with its Continental range.

Some critics say the German influence has led Rolls-Royceand Bentley cars to lose their British character.

Yet sales have flourished - Rolls sold a record 3,575 carslast year, up from 1,002 in 2009. Bentley, meanwhile, delivered8,510 cars in 2012, 22 percent more than the year before.