| LONDON, March 2
LONDON, March 2 British carmakers Rolls-Royce
and Bentley will unveil new vehicles at the Geneva Motor Show
next week, joining battle in the fast-growing luxury end of the
market on behalf of their German owners.
BMW's Rolls-Royce will debut a two-door coupé
version of its Ghost model, known as the Wraith, which the
company says will be its most powerful vehicle yet.
Meanwhile Bentley, part of the Volkswagen
empire, will unveil its updated Flying Spur, its speediest ever
The two German-owned brands hope the new launches will
extend an upturn in their markets, which has been boosted by
recovering demand in the United States and strong growth in
Asia, where customers are increasingly attracted by the history
and status of brands such as Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
The United States and China have traded positions as Rolls
and Bentley's largest markets in recent quarters.
"The Wraith, along with the Ghost, is there to compete with
Bentley's Continental GT, which at a slightly lower price has
been a huge success," said IHS automotive analyst Christoph
Stürmer. "Bentley is looking for success with its Flying Spur,
which is an all-new vehicle, because the predecessor didn't
deliver the sales they were looking for."
"Rolls and Bentley are direct competitors and are like the
last men standing in the ultra-luxury, high-end segment so the
fight for attention of the super-rich in Geneva will be fierce,"
Company insiders say the Wraith, a name first used by Rolls
in 1938, will produce as much as 600 horse power from a
twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12 engine.
So far only two "teaser" images of the Wraith have been
released, showing a shallow-sloping "fastback" design similar to
that seen on smaller sports cars, while the rear appears similar
to the Ghost, with the addition of large exhaust tailpipes at
either side of the vehicle.
Torsten Müller-Ötvös, chief executive of south east
England-based Rolls, is confident the new model will "draw
superlatives" when it is unveiled in Geneva.
Bentley claims its redesigned Flying Spur, which has a
6-litre, 12-cylinder engine generating 616 horsepower and
capable 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 predecessor
with sharp lines and gently curvaceous surfaces, according to
Crewe, north west England-based Bentley.
Bentley was owned by Rolls-Royce for some 70 years, during
which time the pair offered similar models. However, since the
two parted ways in 1998 they have ruled different segments of
the ultra-luxury car market.
Rolls had tended to focus on making larger, more luxurious
cars such as the Phantom. But with the 2009 launch of the Ghost,
Rolls has looked to take a slice of the market for sportier
luxury cars, which Bentley dominates with its Continental range.
Some critics say the German influence has led Rolls-Royce
and Bentley cars to lose their British character.
Yet sales have flourished - Rolls sold a record 3,575 cars
last year, up from 1,002 in 2009. Bentley, meanwhile, delivered
8,510 cars in 2012, 22 percent more than the year before.