SUVs to Wait

It would be no surprise to see Bentley and Lamborghini shelve their SUVs. The VW Group is not being complacent over the Eurocrisis, unlike the French industry, which is in panic mode. It looked as though premium manufacturers might be profitable enough to press on almost regardless, leaving the volume producers to suffer from faltering sales. VW itself looked secure by outperforming the market, but it isn’t going to spend money recklessly. It makes Audis for not much more than it costs to make Skodas, Seats and VWs, and charges a whole lot more for better trim and a classy image. But the supervisory board is being slow to sign off the Bentley EXP9F and Lamborghini Urus. They would be nice projects to improve profit, Lamborghini hasn’t made any money for three years, but they are not essential for survival. Development costs are large and if it doesn’t need to spend, VW would prefer to keep the money aside for a rainy day. The board will make up its mind in November, when it plans cuts in some volume production and wonders how to deal with falling sales. It will look at spending on equipment and factories and is likely to delay the SUVs. The Bentley, shown as a concept at Geneva, would not have appeared until 2014. Based on an Audi platform 4,000 a year with super-luxury fittings it could have made Bentley some good money. Lamborghini would have made fewer to meet expected competition from Maserati, the Jeep Kubang and even Ferrari. The tempting target is Land Rover, which is raising its asking prices ever further with the new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport but, like partner Jaguar with the F-type, is facing critics who think it is pricing itself beyond what the market will stand in an economic downturn. (Top) A Bentley Sports Utility Vehicle of the 1950s. A Countryman with fold-out tables for upper-class picniques at the point-to-point.