How Bentley Could Shake Up the Luxury SUV Market

Bentley Bentayga 2015
Source: Bentley via Yahoo! Autos
At this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, which opened to the public on Saturday, one of the big stories was the introduction of a super-luxury sport utility vehicle (SUV) from Bentley. The Bentayga is expected to have a base sticker price of $229,100 in the United States, and options could easily double that total. For example, buyers can add a Breitling Mulliner Turbillon clock for a mere $234,000. And there you go.

For Cadillac Escalade maker General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and other luxury SUV makers, like Mercedes, Porsche and Land Rover, the new Bentayga raises the top end of a price range that currently hits the ceiling at around $150,000. An Escalade stuffed with every feature in GM’s price book runs about $95,000.

The Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG SUV carries a sticker price of just over $137,000 for a vehicle that has pretty much the same body style it debuted with in 1979. But Mercedes also builds the Maybach brand, and if Bentley can build a super-luxury SUV, what’s to stop Maybach?

In a report Monday at Automotive News, Mercedes-Benz’s SUV chief said that the company is “looking at everything that is going on in that segment,” but stopped short of saying the company has made a decision on whether to proceed.

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For GM and Cadillac, the going may be a bit bumpier. Does the company stick with the Escalade name and just add some letters and numbers that sound more luxurious, or do they come up with a new brand and new design? Either choice has its negatives.

And what about Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and its Lincoln Navigator? This SUV’s success might be attributed to its relatively low price for a luxury vehicle. Its base price of around $62,000 is lower than the Escalade’s base price of around $72,000, and less than half the base price of the Bentley.

Seeing either Ford or GM in the super-luxury SUV sector is hard to imagine. What makes more sense is raising the top end of the current models’ price ranges and, perhaps, adorning the vehicle with a distinctive badge and some additional luxury options. It is not difficult to imagine an Escalade with a base price of around $100,000 and options that could add another $50,000. The same is true for the Lincoln Navigator.

One last note: the first Bentayga is scheduled for delivery to Queen Elizabeth II, perhaps as soon as the end of this year. No word if it includes the Breitling clock.

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