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Rolls-Royce's New Model Is a Wraith

SAN DIEGO ( TheStreet) -- Rolls-Royce will unveil a car model in March that industry insiders say will likely cost at least $300,000 and compete directly with the Bentley Continental GT.

Company representatives declined to confirm specific details about the model, named Wraith, which is to be presented to the public March 5 at the Geneva Motor Show. But its release is noteworthy for a manufacturer that doesn't regularly roll out new models.

"It is something we're excited about. This is definitely new territory," says Kristina Marchitto, head of corporate communications for Rolls-Royce North America.

Rolls-Royce's current collection includes the Phantom, released in 2003 and the Ghost, released in 2009. The Phantom, Rolls-Royce's most expensive model line, includes the Phantom, Phantom Extended Wheelbase, Phantom Drophead Coupe and Phantom Coupe. The Ghost models include the Ghost and Ghost Extended Wheelbase.

The Wraith's development is based in large part on feedback from current Rolls-Royce owners, company representatives say.

"Our Phantom owners and Ghost owners said 'We want something different,'" says Oleg Satanovsky, a Rolls-Royce product specialist.

"There's still new areas for us in terms of market share and what we provide the client," he says.

Ben Timmins, associate Web editor for Automotive Magazine, predicts Wraith is the long-rumored sporty version of the Ghost. With that in mind, Timmins suspects it will "pump out 600 horsepower thanks to a turbocharged V-12 engine, and cost at least $300,000."

The Wraith's launch revives a model name the company last used in 1939 and is another sign of the luxury car market's immunity to the economic woes affecting many other industries -- even other automotive manufacturers.

"When you look at economic trending in car buying ... obviously mass-market cars trend along with consumer confidence," Timmins said. "But once you get past $100,000 that correlation wanes, and Rolls-Royce knows that."

The past few years have been extremely profitable for Rolls-Royce. Last year the company delivered 3,575 cars to customers, the highest annual sales in Rolls-Royce's 108-year history and a third consecutive record year for the company.

Rolls-Royce is expected to release more information about the Wraith over the next few weeks, leading up to the Geneva Motor Show.

First deliveries of the Wraith are expected in the fourth quarter of 2013.

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