More stories related to 2005 NAIAS DETROIT – Bentley Motors Ltd. is planning to confirm plans to build its Drophead Coupe concept at the Geneva auto show in March.

The auto maker says it has received positive feedback from potential customers and will build the car at its Crewe, U.K., assembly plant.

“We would be able to have cars on the road the first half of 2006, Bentley Chairman Franz-Josef Paefgen tells Ward’s during an interview at the North American International Auto Show here. “We might be able to announce something in Geneva. The first reaction has been excellent.” (See related story: Bentley Drophead Could Bow in Spring 2006)

Bentley Drophead

Bentley is coming off a strong 2004 sales year, with global volumes totaling 6,000 units, a significant increase over the original 3,500 projection. Paefgen says he expects the U.K. luxury brand to meet or slightly exceed 6,000 units in 2005.

He says Bentley dealers in the U.S. have an average 10-month waiting list for the Continental GT, with the Arnage running even longer.

While many European auto makers fret over the weak U.S. dollar and its negative impacts on earnings, Paefgen says Bentley has managed to garner marginal price increases from customers to offset the currency impact. But he says higher prices many have reached the end.

The auto maker now must look to improving plant productivity and reducing costs to make up the difference. “America is the most important market for Bentley, so therefore we have to protect the market,” Paefgen says. “We have ongoing programs to improve productivity and reduced costs.”

He says Bentley currently is a profitable operation for its parent, Volkswagen AG and will continue to increase profitability in 2005.

“We are not in the red any longer,” Paefgen says, while declining to provide specific profit figures or targets.

kekelly@primediabusiness.com