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.
There’s not a more uncomfortable phone call for a car dealership’s finance manager to make then asking a customer to come back to have their finance or lease contract rewritten. This is typically caused by sales managers — the people most despised by finance departments — who spot deliver a vehicle based on their wrong guess about the rate or term a lender would approve the deal. Needless to say, the vast majority of these rewrites result in a higher monthly payment for the customer.
A couple of years ago, a finance manager at a Los Angeles Mercedes-Benz dealer told me and a Mercedes-Benz Financial colleague of mine about the day he picked up the phone to fix the opposite situation: the dealership had miscalculated the taxes on a client’s lease on a black ML350 Bluetec SUV and they needed the client to return and sign a new lease agreement reflecting payments of $14 per month lower than the original contract.
He called the customer with the good news only to hear, “No no no! Payment good. Payment good. We OK!”
After he hung up, he thought, “We just got snookered. That ML is probably on a slow boat to China and the factory is going to kill us.”