Rolls-Royce is considering entering the luxury SUV market with its own ultra-exclusive high-riding model.
"We are intensively thinking about entering the SUV segment," said Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes at last week's Frankfurt auto show.
Traditionally, Rolls-Royce has exclusively produced top-tier limousines and an SUV would be a major departure for the brand.
However, with close rival Bentley having already announced a forthcoming 4x4 model, Rolls-Royce needs to respond if it is to avoid losing sales in the SUV loving Russian and Chinese markets.
"The SUV segment is very interesting," Mueller-Oetvoes continued. "It has been incredibly stable during the crisis, and I think a luxury niche will develop."
Given that Rolls-Royce's cheapest car, the Ghost, sells for £170,250, any forthcoming SUV is likely to be more expensive than Bentley's offering, which has a projected retail price of around £150,000 when it reaches showrooms in 2016.
This will no doubt annoy Bentley, which has previously stated that its own product will create a new market segment by being the "world's most expensive and luxurious SUV".
Rolls-Royce is currently evaluating initial sketches to decide whether an SUV fits with the brand.
The premium SUV sector is set to expand rapidly in the next few years with Italian marque Maserati getting ready to release its own model, the Kubang.