This the nearest to a picture of the upcoming SUV that Bentley has yet released.

London, England - Bentley expects its first SUV to help almost double sales by 2020

Chief executive Wolfgang Duerheimer said at a press conference in London on Wednesday - after reporting record deliveries last year - that Bentley expected to increase sales to 20 000 a year by the end of the decade, after previously targeting 15,000 deliveries by 2018.

“We think the success of the SUV will lift us into a new dimension,” he said, adding the vehicle would be unveiled in 2015, potentially at the Geneva auto show in March.

Bentley has said more than 4000 potential customers have already expressed an interest in the SUV without having seen it, leading sales director Kevin Rose to say a forecast of selling 3000 SUVs a year could be conservative.

First deliveries of the new car will be made in 2016.

The 96 year-old company, whose customers include Queen Elizabeth II and the Sultan of Brunei, delivered a record 11 020 sedans, coupes and convertibles in 2014, nine percent more than in 2013, with growth powered by demand from China.

‘IMPOSSIBLE TO PREDICT’

Duerheimer cautioned that geopolitical risks made it impossible to project Bentley's sales performance in 2015 but it was preparing for “a very strong year again”.

Last year's sales in Russia, where the rouble has been hammered by slumping oil prices and Western sanctions related to the crisis in Ukraine, were in line with 2013 levels, Rose said, predicting a similar outcome for 2015.

Russian sales account for two percent of Bentley's global volume - about 230 cars - while the Americas remained Bentley's biggest market in 2014, with China coming a close second, as sales there jumped 22 percent from the previous year.

Bentley's strong growth in China came despite analysts warning of an end to the country's 10-year luxury car sales boom, which has been hit by President Xi Jinping's crackdown on extravagance by government officials.

“In terms of growth, China is still the most important and most interesting region,” Duerheimer said.

Rose said Bentley had about a 35 percent share of China's ultra-luxury car market and that its customers there tended to be entrepreneurs not affected by the crackdown as much as government employees.

Reuters