NEW YORK – The global economic slump is affecting even the market’s upper-most reaches, as output at ultra-luxury car maker Bentley Motors Ltd.’s Crewe, U.K., plant is running at half its capacity of 5,000 units per year, says Stuart McCullough, board member in charge of global sales and marketing.

About 90% of the vehicles rolling off the Crewe assembly line are Continentals, he says, with the remainder older Arnage, Brookfield and Azure models.

Bentley is the largest employer in the Crewe area with 3,700 workers, down from 4,500 in 2007.

“The workforce fluctuates around production levels,” McCullough says in an interview at the New York International Auto Show. “When there’s a new car, we bring in more contract engineers.”

Bentley keeps 15%-20% of its workforce under contract. It will expand its ranks when the new Super Sport, unveiled earlier this year at the Geneva auto show, goes into production at the end of the year.

Sales of the Super Sport, which will base at $267,000, are expected to be “in the thousands” worldwide, McCullough says. “I’m reluctant to predict actual volumes. Making rigid targets on sales is a big mistake.”

Most of the new model’s sales will represent incremental volume for the brand, he predicts.

The U.S. remains Bentley’s biggest market, drawing 35% of production. The Middle East and China are growing regions for the brand.

The average transaction price for the Continental is about $200,000, with Beverly Hills, CA, accounting for about one-third of U.S. sales. The East Coast is the second-largest region, with a quarter of U.S. sales, followed by Florida at about 20%.

Leasing and financed purchases account for about 20% of Bentley’s U.S. retail volume. Credit has loosened up a bit here, but “money is tighter in the U.K. in terms of ease of financing,” McCullough says.

California is a large lease market and is helped by the financial arm of the Volkswagen Group, which provides competitive leasing and financing rates.