Crewe-based Bentley Motors today announced it will proceed with the development of a Bentley SUV with the creation of 1,000 new jobs. The SUV will go on sale in 2016 and will result in £800m of investment over the next three years.
The announcement that the firm is set to build 'the world's most powerful SUV' will come as a shock to many who associate Bentley with luxury saloons and super-fast GT cars, but comes at a time when Britain's car manufacturing sector continues to show strong performance.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who was present together with Dr Martin Winterkorn, chairman of the board of Volkswagen Group for the announcement at Bentley headquarters in Crewe, said: "This £800 million investment and a thousand new jobs from Bentley is fantastic news for both Crewe and for the UK as a whole."
The decision to make the car in the UK reinforces the country's position as a key global vehicle manufacturer worldwide. "One sector that we know is sprinting ahead in the global race is our booming automotive industry. One vehicle rolls off a production line somewhere in the UK every 20 seconds and we have just launched the Government's Automotive Industrial Strategy to help continue this success for years to come," added Cameron.
Dr Winterkorn said: "The Volkswagen Group believes in the UK as a competitive location for industrial production. Bentley fans all around the world are looking forward to the brand's first SUV. Together we will make this new Bentley another true Bentley - powerful, exclusive and successful."
Unite union assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: "Unite worked with the company to win the new SUV. This extra investment is down to the ingenuity of the highly skilled workforce in Crewe.
"The creation of 400 new directly employed workers and a further 600 in the supply chain is great news for the North West and for the wider UK economy. The UK car industry's success story is continuing with another major boost for jobs.
"The UK motor industry built 1.6 million vehicles last year - it's a driving force. Government and industry need to learn the lessons of this success story and use them to rebuild the wider manufacturing sector."
The car's design hasn't been released yet but the firm's EXP 9F concept car, unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show last year, is a good indication of what the final vehicle may look like. It's not pretty by any stretch of the imagination but Bentley hopes it will sell well in the United States - the company's biggest market - and in China, where the Bentley Flying Spur luxury saloon alone is expected to shift more than 1,000 units this year.
Bentley claim the forthcoming SUV, which will become the firm's fourth model line will be a "thoroughbred" Bentley with all the brand's "hallmarks of luxury, performance, quality and craftsmanship." That may well be the case but its looks aren't the greatest. Let's hope at least some of those 1,000 new jobs are for car designers, who you know, actually have eyes.