Bentley's new boss, Wolfgang Duerheimer, has admitted that Bentley will go racing again with a lightweight version of the Continental GT. Speaking exclusively to Road & Track, Duerheimer said, "The first time I went to Crewe I asked where the racing department was and one guy spoke and said he was it. So he will have a bright future, because the Continental platform is not at the limit yet and I think there's potential for a very powerful, lightweight Continental that will also have a close connection with racing."
Duerheimer declined to state a timetable. "At present, our forward focus is on delivering the current programs on time and to finally overcome the crises and get back on the road to profit and in parallel develop a racing program. Green racing will come back not just because we're British, but because we care about technology and that will be good for Crewe."
The former Porsche board member for Research & Development has ambitious plans for the British luxury marquee. The Continental will get more derivatives, he explained, drawing comparisons with the Porsche 911: "If you draw parallels with the 911, it shows what kind of potential the Continental has, and we need to go for it."
He also admitted that diesel will play a role in the future for Bentley, alongside hybrids and second-generation bio-fuels. "Diesel won't play a big role in the U.S. or China for the time being. But in the U.K. and Europe it's a possibility for Bentley, with its efficiency, high torque and low noise."
"My way is to follow second generation bio-fuels; when it's out of the food chain it will gain more acceptability. I think it was a very intelligent approach to make the E85 Continental GT for our customers. Being able to reduce CO2 emissions from well to wheel by 65 percent is a tremendous achievement. Our customers are power-oriented; they like to have power and torque. If you use E85 in the Supersport, you feel a tremendous increase in power."
Duerheimer also wants Bentley to have a higher profile in the U.S. "I am going to intensify the American testing program, not just concentrate on China and the U.K. We want to test the cars under standard American road conditions. J.D. Power is an important indicator, but we are under the radar as our volume is too small. In order to prepare for the future it's an important move and for this reason we will do cross-country testing in the U.S."
Duerheimer has also admitted that Bentley's product strategy to triple sales volume to 10,000 a year will include a wider spread of product, including an SUV.
Although a high end SUV had been considered in the past, Bentley's former CEO, Franz-Josef Paefgen, canceled a Bentley SUV spun off the // platform. Duerheimer, however, sees it as an essential part of Bentley's fleet in markets like China and other nations such as Brazil, Russia and India. Expect a variety of powerplants, both gasoline and diesel, ranging from normally-aspirated V-8s (gasoline only) to turbocharged V-12s.
Duerheimer will work closely with his former colleagues at Porsche, especially his successor, Wolfgang Hartz, on utilizing a Bentley version of the modular front-engine/rear-drive platform that will underpin future Bentleys, excepting the .