Bentley steps up a gear in Russia

While economic uncertainty is putting a dent in the luxury car market in many countries, Russian buyers are still snapping up prestige Bentleys. The British car-maker is so confident of the Russian market, it has drawn up ambitious plans for its expansion

Bentley cars is a brand that has strong appeal to the mentality of Russia's wealthy. The head of Bentley Russia says its cars combine luxury and utility – and can easily cope with Russia's weather and poor roads.

Last year was the best year on record for Bentley, with the company boasting 10,000 sales worldwide. But this year's global financial turmoil has hit the spending of even the super-rich in many markets.

Bentley says that this year the number of those willing to spend six-figure sums on transport is declining, but not in Russia, where the amount of wealthy individuals is growing rapidly, and luxury brands are in strong demand.

The company says Russia has already become its second-largest market in Europe after Germany. In 2007 Bentley sold 240 cars in Russia and plans to double sales in the next couple of years, as it opens new dealerships around the country.

“In two to three years we’re going to have at least five dealerships. The next step will be opening after-sales points in Krasnodar, Ekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Rostov-on-Don.”

Experts say Russia is experiencing a luxury product boom fueled by high oil and gas prices, but they say it won’t last long. Analysts predict even with a developed dealership network, Bentley sales will soon stabilise.

The firm says its goal is to make Russia Bentley’s third-largest market, overtaking China and Japan.