Exclusive: Bentley, Lamborghini may delay SUVs

Thu Oct 11, 2012 7:45am EDT
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By Andreas Cremer

BERLIN (Reuters) - Bentley and Lamborghini's plans to develop ultra-luxury SUVs may be put on hold to save cash for parent Volkswagen, company sources said, in a sign that the crisis is beginning to bite even for the German auto giant.

U.K.-based Bentley and the Italian supercar maker rolled out extravagant concept sport utility vehicles (SUV) at the auto shows in Geneva and Beijing this year, with production awaiting approval by VW's management board.

The push towards off-roaders is aimed at boosting profitability at Lamborghini, loss-making since 2009, and Bentley.

The move has dismayed Lamborghini purists who fear that expanding to four-by-fours will dilute the brand's exclusivity.

Grappling with unforeseen production cuts and slowing auto sales, VW may postpone the models as it reviews planned spending on equipment, factories and vehicles due to be ratified by VW's supervisory board on November 23, two company sources said.

"Such vehicles are anything but obligatory during a crisis," said Frankfurt-based Equinet AG analyst Tim Schuldt. "Delaying their launch would be no drama but help save costs."

VW, on course to overtake U.S. rival General Motors as the world's second-biggest carmaker behind Toyota Motor Corp, has outperformed the European market this year.

The German company's eight-month EU-wide sales were flat at 2.05 million cars, compared with a 7.1 percent drop to 8.27 million vehicles for the 27-nation region's market.   Continued...

File picture shows Lamborghini President and Chief Executive Officer Stephan Winkelmann next to the Lamborghini URUS concept SUV at Auto China 2012 in Beijing April 23, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File