Luxury car brand Bentley is to drive ahead with an £800 million investment to build the world’s most-powerful off-roader in a further boost for Britain’s motor manufacturing sector.
The German-owned firm said the plans for the new model would see it take on an additional 1,000 staff at its Crewe plant.
Bentley – which is best known for its chauffeur-driven limos and sports cars, which start at about £120,000 – already employs 4,000 people at the site.
There had been some speculation that owner Volkswagen was looking to manufacture the new six-litre SUV in Slovakia.
Yesterday’s move was described as “fantastic news” by David Cameron. The Prime Minister was with Martin Winterkorn, chairman of the board of Volkswagen Group, for the announcement at the Bentley HQ.
“It is another important milestone in strengthening our economy,” the PM said. “One sector that we know is sprinting ahead in the global race is our booming automotive industry.
“I am delighted that Bentley will be building their new vehicle here, not only creating a thousand jobs, but safeguarding many more, as well as increasing training opportunities for highly skilled apprentices.”
The UK car industry supports more than 700,000 jobs and has been one of the standout economic successes of the past few years with production, exports and domestic sales on the rise.
In the first half of 2013, manufacturers in the UK built 764,390 vehicles with 80 per cent of these exported. Jaguar Land Rover, Mini and Nissan are among the firms unveiling major investments in their British operations in recent months.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “Bentley was the first firm I visited as a government minister and serves as a real example of high-value manufacturing. They export more than four out of every five cars they make in the UK to the rest of the world.”
The new model is likely to be targeted towards the emerging markets of China, Russia and the Middle-East where Bentley is experiencing its biggest growth.
The company delivered 4,279 cars around the world during the first six months of 2013 – an increase of 9 per cent on the same period in 2012.
Bentley’s chairman and chief executive, Wolfgang Schreiber, said: “This is excellent news for Bentley and for the UK. Bentley is increasingly successful and this new fourth model line will leverage the success of the global SUV market.
“The support of everyone involved with the company has been fundamental to this decision, which will ensure sustainable growth for the company.”
Had the decision been taken to build the SUV in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, it would have been the first volume-produced Bentley to be built outside of the UK in the marque’s near 100-year history.
It would have been assembled alongside other models belonging to the VW group, such as the Audi Q7 and Volkswagen Touareg. While Mini makes most of its range in Oxford, its Countryman compact SUV is manufactured in Austria.