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How Bentley Could Shake Up the Luxury SUV Market

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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By Paul Ausick


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