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Bentley CEO Wolfgang Durheimer Talks Bentayga at Detroit

Denies plans for a second, smaller crossover.

The big news from Bentley at this year's Detroit auto show was that the company's forthcoming -- and first-ever -- crossover will be called the Bentayga. Scheduled to be revealed later this year and to go on sale in 2016, the Bentley Bentayga could help Bentley further increase its sales. We sat down with Bentley Motors chairman and CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer to learn more about the Bentley Bentayga and the brand's future plans.

Why the weird name?

The name Bentayga (ben-tay-gah) is totally new, even though Bentley has many interesting nameplates it could have revived from its history. That was an intentional move, explains Dürheimer, to help push the brand into the future.

"There were also heritage alternatives, but for the Bentley SUV being a completely new product, we thought it's better to have a brand-new name, and not one referring to anything that happened in the past," he says.

"Bentayga is a tribute to our first chairman and CEO in the company, W.O. Bentley. Then the Taiga, the biggest snowforest in terms of area in the northern hemisphere [it touches Canada, Russia, and parts of Alaska], we think is also an interesting analogy for the capabilities of the SUV -- to cover big distances, to go onto rough terrain, and to cross frozen landscapes. And there is a rock on the Canary Islands called the Bentayga Rock, which is a natural extraordinary rock formation. So we think these three attributes -- natural beauty, vast areas, then the tribute to W.O. Bentley -- are a nice combination that contributed to the name Bentayga."

It's a very important model for the brand's future

Bentley knows that crossover sales will continue to grow worldwide, so launching the Bentayga makes perfect sense, even if Dürheimer would never have expected such a model from Bentley.

"We thought that the SUV segment would be a growing segment, that there is a tendency worldwide toward more SUVs -- and unfortunately [fewer] sports cars, [fewer] convertibles -- but luckily for us [an SUV is] an area where we are heavily invested," he says.

A new W-12

As has been reported before, the Bentley Bentayga will launch with one of the company's W-12 engines. It will be a revised version of the current W-12 engine and it'll be the exclusive powertrain choice for the first 12 months of Bentayga sales. After that, a turbodiesel V-8 and a plug-in hybrid will be offered, but for now Dürheimer says it is "not decided" as to whether a gasoline V-8 will be available. He says that plug-in technologies are the most important additions for the future.

"We think it's a must-have in the lineup of future products," he says. "Our customers are not specifically asking about it, but with respect to China and to the emissions limits they might introduce, it's good to have one on board."

Bentley already showed a concept plug-in hybrid drivetrain at the 2014 Beijing auto show, and Dürheimer says it could be added to other future models in addition to the SUV.

A two-seat sports car is a possibility

After the Bentayga, Bentley could expand its lineup in two different directions. It could add a fifth model line, which Dürheimer says would be a "sporty two-seater," or Bentley could build derivatives of the new crossover.

"When you walk around the Detroit show, you will see a lot of examples of derivatives in the SUV segment that could also come true on the Bentley side," he says, clarifying that both a longer SUV, possibly with an extra row of seats, and a coupe-crossover model are possible.

But one thing Dürheimer's adamant about is that Bentley hasn't come to a conclusion about whether it would build a second, smaller crossover after launching the Bentayga -- despite reports to the contrary in European media.

"I wanted to clearly say no to the idea of a second SUV," he says. "It's a misquote."

More in-car connectivity

As with most automakers, Bentley knows it must put ever-more electronics in cars to keep drivers and passengers connected. But Dürheimer says that Bentley customers have very particular demands on their infotainment and telematics systems.

"For example in connectivity, for our customer it's not important to get directions to the cheapest gas station in town," he says, "But they want to get directed to the gas station where they have service and they don't need to get out of the car to [refuel]."