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How British will the new Bentley be?

For nearly a century Bentley has been perhaps the most British of cars. The rakish brother to Rolls-Royce, the cars embody the luxury and fine build quality of the best of British motoring. Now though, new German owners Volkswagen have announced that the next Bentley might be built in Bratislava, Slovakia rather than Crewe, England. The new model, codenamed the Falcon, is a sports utility vehicle (SUV) due to be released in 2015 or 2016.

For nearly a century Bentley has been perhaps the most British of cars. The rakish brother to Rolls-Royce, the cars embody the luxury and fine build quality of the best of British motoring. Now though, new German owners Volkswagen have announced that the next Bentley might be built in Bratislava, Slovakia rather than Crewe, England. The new model, codenamed the Falcon, is a sports utility vehicle (SUV) due to be released in 2015 or 2016. Bentley chairman Wolfgang Schreiber made the remarks which immediately seemed to contradict comments made moments earlier which emphasised the importance of utilising high quality British craftsmanship to maintain Bentley's luxury edge against its competition.

Schreiber claimed that the VW hierarchy had not yet completely made up its mind where the new cars are to be built but conceded that Bratislava was a 'good option' and perhaps the preferred one for the VW management. He also mentioned that another option was for the parts to be made in Crewe and then shipped to Bratislava for assembly. In further comments which seemed to play down the importance of the marque's British heritage he said: "It might be assembled somewhere else, but the DNA is still going to be Bentley. It might not be assembled by Bentley people but this is a minor thing."

The comments are unlikely to please the 4,000 Bentley workers in Crewe who currently make the vehicles. In an apparent attempt to support his boss, the most senior Briton at Bentley, sales and marketing boss Kevin Rose, said: "The single most important thing is that the design and concept is British." Rose did admit however that the cars could no longer bear their famous "Made in Crewe, England" plaques. Schreiber admitted that the proposed production move was based on economic reasons and cited the fact that wages in Slovakia were considerably lower than in England. VW already makes the VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne in Bratislava.

The news drew a negative response from Bentley Drivers Club representative, Mark Andrews, who commented: "To keep it British it's got to be made in England. It would be awful to have 100 years of British engineering history going offshore." The 'Falcon' SUV will be priced to compete with the most upmarket of Range Rover models and is expected to cost upwards of £125,000. Last year Bentley sold 8,500 new cars. Its most important market is the US followed by the rapidly growing Chinese market.

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