Its prices are 20% lower now after the setting up of a national sales company
Bentley breezes in

THE new Azure may cost $1.3 million, but the price of a Bentley in Singapore has actually been revised downwards by as much as 20 per cent now that the ultra-luxury British marque has assumed the importation of its own cars.

Bentley, which is owned by the Volkswagen Group of Germany, has taken over the import function from long-time dealer Malayan Motors. The setting up of a national sales company (NSC) follows a similar move by Volkswagen with its VW-brand cars in January this year.

Our volumes in Asia-Pacific have seen exponential growth, so our representation and structure need to reflect this,' explained Julian Jenkins, Bentley's regional director for South Asia and Australasia. He said that sales had quintupled from 2003-2004 with the introduction of the Continental GT coupe.

Along with the Flying Spur saloon, deliveries of which began two weeks ago, Bentley has introduced yet another new model - the Azure. Production of this elegant four-seater convertible based on the flagship Arnage sedan will begin in mid-2006, with delivery scheduled for end-2006.

Its estimated price here will be $1.3 million with COE, and judging from this week's preview for Malayan Motors customers, it looks like at least two units will be ordered very soon.

The Azure has a 6.75-litre V8 twin-turbocharged engine with 450hp. Riding on 19-inch wheels, it is capable of achieving zero to 100 kmh in 5.8 seconds and a top speed of 270 kmh. The front section of its body is taken from the 2006 Arnage but is different from the A-pillar backwards. The windscreen is more steeply raked than on the Arnage - it is 25mm lower - and the coachline gently flows into a new boot section featuring a 'horseshoe trailing edge' - and LED tail lamps like those on the Continental GT.

Pop-up rollover hoops and a seven-bow canvas roof combine with stylised decking on the neat tonneau cover to create a modern convertible, embodying the Bentley tradition and heritage. In a way, it reflects the brand's recent progress.

'Bentley is going through an unprecedented growth period,' said Mr Jenkins, who is also the managing director of Bentley Motors Singapore, the name of the NSC. 'From a small but historical company, it has become a dynamic and influential brand.' Total sales for the countries he is in charge of - Asean, Australia and New Zealand - came to 203 cars last year, with a similar figure for 2005. But Singapore sales have risen from 25 cars to 35 in those two years, and there is a forecast of 40 units for 2006.

The Continental Flying Spur is expected to provide a fillip to next year's sales numbers, with 16 ordered so far. Before Bentley assumed its NSC functions, its price tag - like the Continental GT - was $740,000. But it has since been adjusted to $680,000.

The flagship Arnage, which used to range between $1.1 million and $1.2 million, has fallen below the million-dollar mark to between $890,000 and $990,000.