* Previous estimates “too aggressive” -CEO
* Production of Continental line to be slowed in the autumn
* Still expects increase in record full-year sales, revenue and profit (Adds detail, background)
LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) - Luxury carmaker Bentley, part of Germany’s Volkswagen, expects to increase sales volumes this year by less than previously forecast, Chief Executive Wolfgang Duerheimer said on Thursday.
Duerheimer, who took the helm at Bentley on June 1, told reporters in London that previous estimates had proved to be too optimistic.
“Maybe the forecast from last year and the beginning of this year was too aggressive, but I still predict double-digit (sales volume) growth in 2014,” he said, adding that the first half of the year’s 61 percent sales growth in China, Daimler’s second-biggest market, was always going to be difficult to maintain.
Bentley had said that 2014 was on course to be the brand’s best year after first-half sales rose by almost a quarter to 5,254 saloons, coupes and convertibles, thanks to demand from China and the Middle East.
Though the carmaker has not made public its previous production forecast, it has said it expected sales to reach 15,000 in 2018, including a new sport-utility vehicle that Bentley plans to launch in 2016.
Factors behind the lowering of expectations for this year include a smaller increase in demand from China and the impact from the crisis in Ukraine and Russia, Duerheimer said.
But the former R&D chief at VW’s Audi and Porsche premium divisions, now in his second stint at Britain-based Bentley, said that full-year volumes, turnover and profit would still be up on 2013, which saw the carmaker post the highest sales and profit in its 95-year history.
Duerheimer said that about 700 of Bentley’s 3,700 workers at a factory in Crewe, central England, would not work on Fridays for several weeks from the autumn until Christmas to reflect the projected cut in volumes on the Continental model line.
Reporting by Costas Pitas, Writing by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Kirsti Knolle and David Goodman