The best of billionaires’ British brands, Bentley, buckles down to business in Manila
THAT most premium of car brands—British or otherwise—is now officially sold in the Philippines through Bentley Manila.
The storied marque’s arrival in the country last week was announced by the top executives of Bentley Motors, UK Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Lillie, and representatives of the brand’s local partner, PGA Cars, headed by Robert Coyiuto Jr.
Bentley is no stranger to Asia as it already enjoys a solid presence in countries like Singapore (presently its largest market in the region), Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong—where it has shops for around 50 years now. But, according to Bentley Motors Regional Director for Asia Pacific and the Middle East Geoff Dowding, in most of these places luxury goods like premium cars are quite expensive because of high duties, and so they remain to be relatively small markets.
“But they [markets]are increasing [in size],” said Dowding. “Asia is, without doubt—and has been for some time—a place where economic strength is increasing. The development of ‘high net worth’ individuals is faster in Asia than in other parts of the world.”
Bentley, obviously, benefits from this. The carmaker saw a 40-percent to 45-percent growth in the region during the first quarter of the year compared to its figures for the same period last year. And some of the credit for this uptick goes to new markets like Korea and Taiwan.
“We feel that we’re getting the most out of Asia as a region,” Dowding said.
Incidentally, the carmaker is not even lumping its results in China when it refers to Asia. “The scale of the numbers there are simply out of proportion,” said Dave Jackson, Bentley Motors regional sales manager for Asia Pacific.
Now, is Bentley’s move toward Asia a reaction over the downturn in some European countries?
Not really, according to Dowding.
“It does not work that if you have a problem in one market, you shift [to another]. What we’re actually doing, regardless of being successful somewhere, is always looking for new opportunities—it’s just expansion,” Dowding said.
Besides, Europe, according to Bentley Motors Head of Marketing for Asia Pacific Robin Peel, isn’t actually that gloomy a place for Bentley. While conceding that the European high-end market is “not that insulated” from economic woes, Peel said the brand is growing steadily, assuring that Bentley’s traditional customers can still afford the company’s cars but at the moment are just “holding out a bit.”
“We’re also doing fine in countries not as affected by the Euro crisis, like in Germany, Switzerland and France,” Peel said.
‘Flying B in the Philippines
But while the British has conducted business in various parts of Asia for centuries, the Philippines, being one of the few in the region that wasn’t one of the Empire’s colonies, is a new territory for the modern operations of British auto firms like Bentley. As such, the carmaker’s entry in the Philippines is significant.
Aware of this, Bentley’s officers are apparently optimistic over the brand’s opportunities in the Philippines, too.
“We have work to do in terms of brand-building here [the Philippines],” admitted Peel.
“But our experience has shown that Asia has a sense of appreciation for British quality.”
“The Philippines is one of the new opportunities that came our way,” said Dowding.
He continued; “When you see the opportunity, and you see the viability and the potential that come with it, then you make the decision ‘That’s where we should go.’
“So we’ve gone around the world looking at countries. Vietnam is one of them, places like Chile, Argentina, some of the African countries—all represent small opportunities. When we got into China [in 2001], we sold 21 cars in our first year. In our biggest year we were doing 2,500. So who knows what the Philippines will be like; we don’t know what the Philippines will look like in, say, 10 years’ time. We have no clue
“But what we do know is that we will be here.”
Peel offered another view; “We wouldn’t be here if we are not confident that our partner can deliver the kind of service our clients want and expect.”
Bentley lands in Manila through a four-model brigade—the flagship Mulsanne, Continental GT V8, Continental GTC and the fastest production Bentley ever, the Continental GT Speed.
The Mulsanne, a four-door luxury sedan of epic proportions, has a 6.75-liter twin-turbo V8 engine that makes 505 horsepower and an astounding 1,020 Newton-meter of torque. This engine, which bolts on to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, can launch the car from rest to 100kph in 5.3 seconds and all the way to a 296-kph top speed.
For their part, the three Continental variants get the same eight-speed automatic transmissions with paddle shifters, and an all-wheel drive system. The Continental GT V8 is fitted with Bentley’s new 4.0-liter, 500-horsepower, 660-Newton-meter V8 engine—good for delivering 4.8-second 0kph-to-100kph sprint time and a 303-kph top speed.
The Continental GTC is a topless looker that can reach 100kph from naught in 4.7 seconds and will never stop accelerating until 314kph, thanks to a stupendous W12 engine that squeezes out 567 horsepower and 700 Newton-meter from a 6.0-liter displacement. This is the same engine that has been shoehorned into the Continental GT Speed. But further tweaking means it now spews 616 horsepower and 800 Newton-meter. Along with some dieting, the car is able to cover the 100-kph mark from a dead stop in only 4.2 seconds and reach speeds comparable to what Formula One cars can manage on certain racetracks—330kph.
Now much do these cars cost? Well, if you have to ask. . .