The city’s chief executive joined Bentley officials Monday to reveal that one of the world’s most luxurious car companies will open its first dealership in Jacksonville by early 2019 on Bonneval Road on the Southside.

Curry’s daily driver is usually an American SUV that costs about $50,000 at a dealer’s lot. So will he circulate the city in a 600-hp Bentayga when Brickell Motors opens its 25,000-sq.ft. Bentley of Jacksonville by early 2019?

“Absolutely not,” Curry said with a laugh, then said in seriousness that new businesses go where they believe they can be successful, and Bentley’s arrival speaks to the direction Jacksonville is headed, acting like the big city it is.

“This is one example of what Jacksonville is becoming,” Curry said. “They are free-market private-sector folks who have done their homework. I met with them before this decision was made and their data tells them everything they are seeing. They want to be in Jacksonville because they will be successful.”

Liveried waiters served hors d’oeuvres in the arched lobby of the classic old railroad station-turned-convention center as Bentley U.S. President Mark Del Rosso joined Brickell CEO Mario Murgado at the announcement. Murgado, who owns nine dealerships in the Miami area as well as Chicago, said he approached Bentley with the idea to open its 46th U.S. dealership in City Councilman Danny Becton’s Southside district.

Murgado said Jacksonville is a vibrant, cosmopolitan area “thirsty for the ultra-luxury brand,” and there is a sustainable market here for an ultra-luxury car line that sells for $200,000 to $300,000 or more.

“This is a performance product and an ultra-luxury product and you want to feel its comfort. What we try to create is that relationship,” Murgado said. ”… [For our customers] It’s almost like hey, I am part of the family.”

“We do build a good and fast car, the very best in its class. The other part of this story is it is a very personal company,” Del Rosso added. ”… I think having someone like Mario Murgado being part of the community and at home in Jacksonville, I think that’s an element showing the Bentley brand will only propel us further into the future.”

 Jacksonville has high-end automotive dealerships like Maserati, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus. But the new Bentley dealership, which will employ 28 to 35 people when opened, will be the area’s first foray into the ultra-luxury market since the 1990s. That is when Italian supercar maker Lamborghini briefly operated a dealership on Atlantic Boulevard.

Bentley is one of the world’s oldest surviving car companies, founded in 1919 by W. O. Bentley. Taken over by Volkswagen in 1998, Bentley has handcrafted its cars in Crewe, England, for more than 75 years. It sells sporting ultra-luxury vehicles like the Bentayga, calling it the world’s “fastest, most powerful, most luxurious and most exclusive SUV.” The company’s other lines include the 626-hp Continental GT, 626-hp Flying Spur and imposing Mulsanne sedan, which starts at about $300,000. Company officials said it takes 130-plus hours to build a Flying Spur and Bentayga, and around 400 for a Mulsanne.

Bentley operates more than 200 dealerships in 58 markets, delivering more than 10,000 cars a year. Six dealerships are in Florida now. The company decided to venture into Jacksonville because the timing was right to establish a “long-term relationship” with the city close to I-95 and busy Butler Boulevard, Del Rosso said.

“The chance to come to Jacksonville is really a dream for us and we are happy to capitalize on it,” Del Rosso said. ”… It’s a beautiful location, and to be right there in a high-traffic area on a consistent basis definitely gives us good visibility. Mario’s vision to develop that property is not only benchmark, but luxury benchmark. From a footprint perspective and a physical presence, it will really embody luxury.”

Jacksonville’s car guru, Bill Warner, who founded and chairs the 22-year-old Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and its myriad of classic and exotic car events every March, said he knew Bentley was coming to his hometown.

“Bentley should do well in Jacksonville as an alternative to the traditional luxury cars sold here. It represents recognizing Jacksonville as an emerging luxury market,” said Warner. “This is appropriate on the soon-to-be-celebrated centenary of the marque.”

The dealership will be visible from I-95 on a 7.5-acre lot on Bonneval Road, with one acre reserved as a buffer between it and nearby homes, Murgado said. He said he will break ground as soon as possible and hopes to sell between 50 and 100 Bentleys a year, plus handle service and the sale of 300 to 500 used luxury vehicles. And Bentley has some big plans to celebrate its 100th anniversary next year with a new dealership as well as three new models — a V-8-powered Bentayga as well as a hybrid version, and a new Continental GT, Del Rosso said.

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