Rolls-Royce confident of another strong year

Picture expired. REUTERS

LONDON —

As Rolls-Royce delivered its fourth straight annual sales record this month, the head of the luxury British car maker had a few predictions for 2014 - less bling, greater demand for customization, and more women buyers.

The 110-year-old car maker, bought by Germany’s BMW in 1998, sold 3,630 vehicles in 2013, up from 3,575 in 2012, driven largely by demand for personalised vehicles from the super-rich in Asia and the Middle East.

Sales in China jumped 11% last year to match those in the United States for the first time and the company is eying new markets this year including Myanmar. It is also looking at entering the sport-utility vehicle market but has not made a decision, its chief executive told Reuters.

Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes, chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, said that sales were strong globally in 2013 including in Germany, Japan, Qatar and Canada and were particularly good in the Middle East, rising 17%.

China and the United States now both accounted for 28% of its sales, while the Middle East snapped up 20% and Asia 10%.

However, Mueller-Oetvoes did not expect Chinese sales to top the U.S. in 2014 as the car manufacturer was seeing strong American demand for its new model, the Wraith, which starts at about $285,000, with its order book full until mid-2014.

He expected another good year for Rolls-Royce - whose customized vehicles typify super-luxury - as long as forecasts for the global economy held true. But customers were becoming more discerning as “pure bling was no longer the criteria”.

“People are a bit tired with luxury goods that all look the same and they want more individualization and customization,” Mueller-Oetvoes said in an interview. “They want to sit down with our designers to make it their own car.”

All Rolls-Royce’s Phantom models were customized in 2013 as were 75% of its more compact Ghost models, he said. Buyers of the Wraith model were also requesting personal touches such as champagne fridges, family crests on headrests, and luggage to match the car leather.

One of the more unusual requests last year was to furnish a car with wood from the estate of the buyer while more owners were asking for 1,340 fiber optic lamps to be hand-woven into the roof lining in the shape of a favorite constellation.

Mueller-Oetvoes said future growth depended on Rolls-Royce’s global strategy. It is now present in 40 countries and is starting to appeal to a growing number of women buyers in top executive positions, who currently account for about 10% of sales.

Rolls-Royce opened 15 new dealerships last year in cities like Istanbul, Beirut, Lagos, Hanoi and Manila, and expects to open up to eight more in 2014, eyeing Myanmar and Azerbaijan.

Jaguar Land Rover, another British-based luxury car maker, owned by India’s Tata Motors, is also looking at entering Myanmar, according to its Southeast Asian partner.

Mueller-Oetvoes said Rolls-Royce was looking at entering the fast-growing sport-utility vehicle (SUV) market which could rival the SUVs being made and developed by Bentley, Jaguar Land Rover and Volkswagen-owned Porsche.

“It is certainly a very interesting segment but the question is what would a Rolls-Royce look like if we enter this market? This is something we are evaluating,” Mueller-Oetvoes said. “There is no decision yet and no green light. We are not rushing.”

Mueller-Oetvoes said Rolls-Royce would create another 100 jobs this year at its manufacturing plant in Goodwood, southeast England, after creating 100 new jobs last year. Rolls-Royce employs more than 1,300 people worldwide.

Britain’s Business Secretary Vince Cable said the new jobs and higher sales at Rolls-Royce showed the strength of the iconic brand and rising success of Britain’s car industry.

Car exports from Britain last year were up 7%, generating over 30 billion pounds for the economy.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2014.

  • 1

    shinhiyata

    Rolls are made in England but owned by BMW so why is it called a British car company? Are the Toyotas manufactured in America not made by a Japanese company? The only truly British luxury car manufacturer remaining is Bristol.

  • -2

    Doug Birbeck

    Rolls Royce is Rolls Royce, Bentley is Bentley and Aston Martin is Aston Martin. they are all British no matter what and the finest cars money can buy. from an Englishman

  • 3

    JeffLee

    "why is it called a British car company"

    Because although ownership changes hands from time to time, a carmakers's location, workforce composition and heritage usually remained unchanged.

  • 1

    shinhiyata

    I stand by my statement. DB - AM is actually Aston Martin Lagonda - Lagonda being a company started by an American. JL - I suppose you have never heard of a Springfield Rolls. Even TVR is owned by a Russian these days. I would have counted Morgan, but the cars they make are not on par with Bristol

  • 0

    davestrousers

    "luxury British car maker" implies more that the company is a maker of luxury British cars, rather than a British maker of luxury cars.

    I think its adequately explained in the article that was bought by "Germany's BMW".

  • 0

    Laguna

    That would make Nissan, of which a controlling interest is owned by Renault, a French company, and Chrysler, majority-owned by Italy's Fiat SpA, Italian, among other examples. Too confusing (and, likely, temporary).

  • 1

    Tigerta9

    Good points all but the underlying factor is RR, Roller or whatever you want to call it would still be using a 4-speed transmission, and would be as antiquated as ever were not for the Germans.

  • 1

    AKBfan

    more proof that the rich are getting richer.

  • 0

    sighclops

    I think you guys are labouring the point of "owned by BMW" a little - Rolls Royce is as British as Yorkshire Pudding and Tescos.

    Vegemite is the icon of Australia - a spread lovingly enjoyed each morning by Australians since 1922. Yet, it's been owned by America's Kraft Foods since 1926. I have never once considered Vegemite an American product.

    Sure, the RR Ghost shares it's platform with the latest BMW 7 Series, but the similarities end there. There are countless examples of this (Audi owning Lamborghini, Fiat owning Chrysler, Ford owning Mazda, Tata owning Jag etc. etc.) - it's just par for the course in the auto industry.

  • 2

    Tigerta9

    Underpinnings are the heart of the car. It would not waft, ride and be able to comport itself as it does without the use of German technology, engineering, and production know-how. These have all been taught to the fine workers at the Goodwood factory.

    Let's also be clear - German management is running the company and calling the shots. Brits add their craftsmanship, woodworking, and details or quirks here and there that are historical hallmarks of the brand.

  • 0

    theeastisred

    Put me down for a couple before the consumption tax increase kicks in. Wouldn't mind 'consuming' an RR.

  • -1

    taiko666

    @shinhiyata

    I bought a Japanese painting the other day. I'm English. However, the painting remains Japanese.

    Likewise, Rolls Royce is an English company owned by Germans.

    Are the Toyotas manufactured in America not made by a Japanese company?

    No, Toyota USA is an American company because it is a company registered in America.

    It's owners are Japanese...

  • 0

    shinhiyata

    TK666 - I bought a Japanese painting the other day, too. It said Made in China on the back. I suppose you've never listened to RR CEO Mueller-Oetvoes give a speech. He's about as English as your Hanoverian Kings George were. And what about the Vauxhall cars built at the GM Opel factory in Spain? Or the soon to open Tata owned Land Rover factory in China? The only true blue-blooded English luxury car maker left is Bristol and they have always used either BMW or Chrysler engines.

  • 0

    iLikeTurtles

    Rolls are made in England but owned by BMW so why is it called a British car company? Are the Toyotas manufactured in America not made by a Japanese company? The only truly British luxury car manufacturer remaining is Bristol.

    Mclaren? Morgan? Both considered luxury brands and completely British as far as I know.

    The Rolls are definitely not British though, they're not even designed by British people. I would still like one though.

  • 0

    Utrack

    The Rolls Royce live fish carrier ship is all that for $8 million.

Login to leave a comment

OR

More in Executive Impact

View all

View all