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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 September 2005, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
Bentley eyes small convertible
By Jorn Madslien
BBC News business reporter at the Frankfurt motor show

Bentley Azure convertible
The Bentley Azure will be on sale next year

Luxury carmaker Bentley Motor is preparing to build a small convertible model, the company's chief executive, Franz-Josef Paefgen, has told BBC News.

"Nothing is formal yet, but we might make an announcement within weeks," he said in an interview at the Frankfurt motor show.

The new convertible would be based on the Continental GT, by far the most popular model Bentley makes.

The news coincided with Bentley's premiere of its more luxurious and much larger Azure convertible, which is based on its Arnage model.

"The reaction has been fantastic," said Mr Paefgen.

The Azure will go on sale early next year, a full year before the arrival of arch rival Rolls-Royce's convertible.

No more models

Separately, the industry has been awash with rumours that Bentley's cash-strapped parent, Volkswagen Group, is pushing for ever more models, such as a seven-seater sports utility vehicle (SUV), or a sportscar that would be smaller than the Continental.

Franz-Josef Paefgen, Bentley chief executive
Protecting the Bentley brand is vital, says Mr Paefgen

Audi's Q7 SUV, which has its premiere at the Frankfurt show, could provide the basis for a Bentley SUV.

A smaller, cheaper sportscar, meanwhile, would take on lesser luxury marques such as Mercedes and BMW.

But Mr Paefgen dismissed such talk as "invented" by car journalists.

"There will be more derivatives (of the Continental and the Arnage models), but there will be no SUV and there will be no smaller car," he said.

Mr Paefgen added that the Volkswagen Group board supported him on this point, since the introduction of such models could severely devalue the marque.

"The brand is the most important attribute of the company," Mr Paefgen insisted.

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