Ungainly Bentayga 'Cayennes' Bentley In Its First Month On The Market

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

Mercedes-Benz began selling the ML in 1997. Seemingly more of a stretch, along came the BMW X5 two years later.

Then Porsche, not just a luxury carmaker but the preeminent German sports car builder, pulled the same stunt with the Cayenne in 2003. The move doesn’t seem so crazy now that Porsche produces 60 percent of its U.S. sales by way of the Cayenne and its little brother, the Macan.

Indeed, there were no surprises when earlier this year, in one fell swoop, the F-Pace became Jaguar’s best-selling model in its first month on the market, outselling the newly re-launched XF and the brand new XE right from the start.

But can the same strategy be replicated further upmarket? Much further upmarket, at a $232,000 price point? At a brand which suffered a 46-percent year-over-year sales decline in 2016’s first seven months?

Most definitely. The Bentayga is to Bentley what the Cayenne became to Porsche, what the F-Pace has already become at Jaguar. Only more so.

Ugly doesn’t seem so stand in the way of upmarket SUV success. The first Porsche Cayenne was nothing if not stylistically challenged, yet by 2006 the Cayenne was Porsche USA’s best-selling model, accounting for 43 percent of the brand’s sales.

With a face (and body) only a mother (and a slew of well-heeled buyers) could love, in the words of our own Steph Willems, the Bentayga may not be as ghastly as its EXP 9 F concept forerunner, but it’s no F-Pace. It’s no Range Rover. Let’s be honest: the Bentayga doesn’t hold a candle to the Mazda CX-3.

Subjective styling analysis aside — even if the TTAC masthead and B&B is largely in agreement — we do know that Bentley sales were in the toilet heading into August.

Following an end-of-year surge to 581 sales circa Christmas 2015, Bentley volume decreased in seven consecutive months, year-over-year. U.S. sales in January and February fell into double-digits for just the second and third time in 61 months. February volume, in fact, tumbled to a 67-month low. Through July 2016, Bentley was on track for its worst U.S. sales year since 2010, when the recession blues had caused Bentley volume to plunge by two-thirds from its 2007 peak.

SUVs to the rescue! After averaging 113 monthly sales between January and July, Bentley reported 399 sales in August 2016, the first month of Bentayga sales, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

There was little help from the Volkswagen-owned, British brand’s establishment. Other Bentleys tumbled 23 percent, though the Mulsanne flagship recorded an eight-unit uptick to 19 sales. Flying Spur volume was cut in half. Continental GT volume decreased 8 percent.

The Bentayga generated 56 percent of all Bentley sales. Pent-up demand for a long-awaited model — yes, people put their names on waiting lists for vehicles this hideous — explains a portion of the Bentayga’s possibly exaggerated first-month success. But who are we kidding: specific trim levels of the Range Rover aside, the market has largely been devoid of an ultra-high-end luxury SUV to line up alongside Mulsannes and Phantoms and Rapides and Maybachs. It won’t be surprising to see long-term demand for the Bentayga.

If the Bentayga was the only Bentley on sale in America in August, its 223 sales would still have produced Bentley’s best month of sales this year, and by a long shot.

By the standards of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, crossovers that routinely attract more than 30,000 buyers every month, the Bentayga is undoubtedly a rare beast. Yet in August, the big Bentley wasn’t that much more uncommon than some far more affordable utilities. Lincoln sold 273 MKTs in August; Toyota reported 270 Land Cruiser sales.

[Charts: © The Truth About Cars; Image: Bentley; Bentley sales source: Automotive News Data Center]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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  • Jagboi Jagboi on Sep 08, 2016

    I assume those sales numbers are US only? How is Bentley doing for sales overall? I understand they sell a lot to China.

  • Zipper69 Zipper69 on Sep 30, 2016

    Sales success aside -it's an undistinguished slab sided bolide with nothing apart from the badging to show it's heritage. This is simply creating a product for a market segment that scarcely existed a decade ago. If the hipsters suddenly decide that station wagons are "wicked cool" these jumbo gravel crushers will be sales poison.

  • 3-On-The-Tree To say your people are total monsters is an unfair statement. You can judge the Japanese government but to say the citizens are culpable or responsible is wrong. That’s like saying every Caucasian person in the U.S is responsible for slavery or the civil rights era of violence and discrimination against African Americans and are benefiting from it. That’s 79 years ago, the average Japanese citizen born during WWII has nothing to do with what happened. Even my Japanese grandmother who was living in Yokohama whose home was firebombed was just trying to survive with 3 kids and a husband fighting in the war. Just like every war the citizens suffer, I saw it in Iraq. You can’t judge the people from the misdeeds of their government, my mom was born after the war, you really think she is responsible for what happened?
  • Irvingklaws Was a must have for my wife's new car. After years of windshield mounts, trying to keep the sun off the phone, wires running across the dash, etc...it's been a welcome upgrade. Don't have it in my current (old) car, just a stock stereo with the aforementioned windshield phone mount and wires...which is fine enough for me. But if I upgrade the radio with an aftermarket unit, the first thing I'm looking for, after separate volume and tuning KNOBS, is Carplay. Note, I've yet to find an aftermarket head unit meeting these basic qualifications. The infotainment in my '17 GTI had both of these and was near perfect, I'd be happy with that unit in any car.
  • Haze3 Near must have... car guy make car, software guy make software THAT I CAN USE EVERYWHERE and not just on some specific brand of truck/car/suv.
  • Wolfwagen If there is no Rust or rot this would be a good buy when MB craftsmanship and engineering meant something. While I prefer the 500 or 560 for the larger engine, this is good
  • Wolfwagen Tim, Now you should ask the B&B who we want to succeed and why. You could limit it to EV or non- North American MFGs.