A "brave" new Bentley

August 5, 2013

Let me preface this discussion by saying, “I am not a car person.” Four wheels, safe and able to get me where I need to go is really all I ask from any automobile.

That being said, I was recently staying at a lovely hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia. The hotel offered a complementary car and driver as a guest amenity. While nothing during our trip warranted using the car, it seemed like something we should do just to say we did. So on our last day, we requested to be driven the six blocks to our final destination. We stood in front of the hotel awaiting our car and driver. Up pulls…a Bentley.

We got in. We drove six blocks. And as we drove, it occurred to me, the Bentley was just a car. I suppose it was a nice car, but it had four wheels, seemed safe and got me where I needed to go.

Clearly, I’m not the target Bentley customer. But for those that are Bentley traditionalists, the large, luxurious sedans epitomize the ultimate in prestige, quality, design, and excellence. Bentley is a super-luxury brand with a clear point of view and a singular product.

Enter the Bentley SUV, which is scheduled to hit the market in 2015. Like its harbinger, the Porsche Cayenne, the Bentley SUV will mark a drastic departure from the automaker’s traditional offering. And yet Bentley management notes the idea was driven by customer demand, VIP sales representatives fielding requests from current owners for an SUV model.

When the Porsche Cayenne was first introduced ten years ago, there was wide criticism that the luxury manufacturer was abandoning what made it Porsche: sleek, sporty, speedy. To this day, every time I pass a Cayenne on the road I wonder what would compel somebody to purchase one. If you want a Porsche, buy a Porsche. A Porsche is not an SUV.

But I am in the minority. Ten years later, the Cayenne is Porsche’s best selling vehicle. “Cayenne has nearly doubled the Porsche’s sales worldwide (the company sells roughly 60,000 of them each year), and sales may surge an additional 40% by 2017, according to the research firm IHS Automotive.” (Forbes)

Which leads me to wonder how Porsche and (assumingly) Bentley have been able to successfully stretch their brands when other brands have not. Have you ever purchased a McDonald’s lobster roll? A Levi’s suit? Bic underwear?

So what makes Porsche and Bentley different? Why do they have permission to stretch their brands?



Porsche and Bentley have proven their ability to stretch…within reason. How far do you think your brand has permission to go?

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