UPDATE 1-Rolls-Royce ventures offroad in hunt for growth

miércoles 18 de febrero de 2015 09:04 GYT

* Rolls-Royce enters SUV segment after Bentley pushes ahead

* Luxury offroaders offer growth potential

* SUVs have proved popular in emerging markets (Recasts, adds detail, background, quotes)

By Edward Taylor and Irene Preisinger

FRANKFURT, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Venerable luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce is preparing to jump on the SUV bandwagon that other premium marques have already set in motion in the chase for sales growth.

A business that for the past 111 years has built a limited number of sumptuous limousines said early on Wednesday that it will develop a sports utility vehicle that can cross "any terrain" in response to client demands.

The change of heart comes after parent company BMW said that it will build an X7 offroader with three rows of seats and rivals Bentley and Jaguar unveiled plans for their own SUVs.

"The SUV is the hottest product in all vehicle segments," Metzler Bank automotive analyst Juergen Pieper said. "SUV's sell well in the United States and in all emerging markets, where the road infrastructure may not be the best. For Rolls it is a shift to growth."

Though proud of the exclusivity of its 12-cylinder cars, which command prices of 200,000 euros ($228,000) or more, the company has long hesitated over whether to build an offroader, worried that it may stretch the brand too far.   Continuación...