Bentley woos Jay-Z, Maybach set as luxury car brand nears end

Fri Jan 13, 2012 8:45am EST
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By Laurence Frost

DETROIT (Reuters) - Samuel L. Jackson, Jay-Z and King Juan Carlos can all expect letters from Volkswagen AG's (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) Bentley.

The British high-end car maker is approaching rival Maybach's clients, who include the Pulp Fiction star, the hip-hop artist and the Spanish monarch, hoping to capitalize on Daimler AG's (DAIGn.DE: Quote) move to kill off the ultra-luxury brand.

"The withdrawal of Maybach is a business opportunity for us and we're going to use it," Bentley Chief Executive Wolfgang Duerheimer told Reuters at the Detroit auto show this week.

Daimler said in November it planned to end production of Maybachs, which start at $380,000, despite an unusual kind of endorsement from Jay-Z, who owns one of the cars and destroyed another with a blowtorch and saw in a music video released four months earlier.

One of the world's most potent wealth symbols, the condemned brand also counts Russian oil billionaire Roman Abramovich and the Sultan of Brunei among its following.

The Bentley boss has already heard from some Maybach clients and is "in the process" of writing to others, he said. "The comments I'm receiving aren't very positive - they feel left alone."

Under Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche, Daimler is focusing on the core Mercedes brand's top-flight S-Class, adding pricier variants designed to inherit and enlarge Maybach's super-rich client base, starting next year.

But Bentley and BMW AG's (BMWG.DE: Quote) Rolls-Royce Motor Cars are hoping owners of the prestige badge will instead defect to their plushest models, the Mulsanne and Phantom.   Continued...