Britain's Rolls, Bentley fight luxury battle for German owners

Sat Mar 2, 2013 8:21am EST
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By Rhys Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - 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 (BMWG.DE: Quote) 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 (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) empire, will unveil its updated Flying Spur, its speediest ever four-door model.

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," he added.

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.   Continued...

The logo of a Bentley car is pictured during a press presentation prior to the Essen Motor Show in Essen November 30, 2012. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender