Bentley is trying to position Mulliner as its ultra-exclusive brand as if a Bentley wasn't exclusive enough.
It's perhaps a sign of the wealth inequality problem that automakers which once made the finest cars the human species could build are now finding that their wealthiest customers want vehicles even more exclusive than those. The $18.7 million Bugatti La Voiture Noire is the most extreme example of that, but others include the ultra-rare limited editions that tend to sell out before the normal people of the world even have a chance to hear about them.
Take the Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta, the Aston Martin Valkyrie, the Lamborghini Veneno, the Mercedes AMG One, or even the Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet. Each of them is a rolling symbol, not just of wealth, but of a type of wealth without ceilings. And that's a market that builders of the world's finest cars don't want to miss out on.
It's why Bentley's exclusive coachbuilding wing, Mulliner, is now looking to ramp up its presence by building an ultra-exclusive model of its own, according to Autocar. The highly limited luxury vehicle will seek to differentiate Mulliner from Bentley so that eventually, wealthy customers see Mulliner to Bentley the way they see Maybach to Mercedes.
Yeah, thinking of Bentley as the "more mainstream" brand is a little hard for us to grasp, but Mulliner will try to drill the concept in our heads with a car so exclusive that only ten people in the world will ever be able to own one. Each car will cost over £1 million ($1.26 million at today's rates) and call back to Bentley's early heritage.
As Bentley design director Stefan Sielaff told Autocar, "We have more and more customers asking for a very individual Bentley - almost a one-off or a series of 10. From our observations, if you look at society, the rich customers are getting richer." He added, "They come to us and say 'I want the one and only Bentley tailor-made for myself.' In the old days, this was difficult for homologation but now we ramp up this idea."
There aren't really any other details about the car aside from the fact that it'll use a gasoline engine. But what does Mulliner's move mean for Bentley? "Of course we have to deal with [one-offs] very carefully, but I think this is a trend, it's not only Bentley. It will be under the remit of Mulliner Coachbuilding, sitting on top of Bentley, and will definitely be something more expensive than a normal Bentley." If the move works for Mulliner, we may be using its name more often when referencing the finest luxury cars out there.