Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO of Rolls-Royce Featured

In this exclusive interview, the executive talks about one of the most famous luxury brands


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01 December 2011

Rolls-Royce has always been the epitome of luxury and elegance. The automotive crowning glory made in Goodwood. Today, the brand shines more than ever as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Spirit of Ecstasy, and a record year in 2010.

Is it possible to characterise the typical Rolls-Royce driver? How do you define your clientele?
There is no typical Rolls-Royce customer. The only two things that our customers have in common are their affluence and their desire for luxury. Rolls-Royce customers know exactly what they want - they seek only the best and are rarely satisfied with a negative answer.

What distinguishes buyers of a Rolls-Royce today from those of preceding generations?
We have witnessed substantial changes over the last years. The Rolls-Royce generation of today has become much younger. Our youngest Rolls-Royce customer for example is a 28-year old entrepreneur from India. We find that many of our customers have earned their success through their own work, and they want to reward themselves with a Rolls-Royce. That also includes our female customers, who make up 10 % of our buyers nowadays.

How strong is the influence that the parent company BMW bears on the technical development of your model ranges?
We have access to the research results and the design and development output of the BMW Group, thus we benefit from being a part of one of the most innovative companies in the automotive industry. We take on these technologies and innovations, developing them further to fit the brand Rolls-Royce, in line with the words of Sir Henry Royce: ¨take the best that exists and make it better¨. Besides its independence in a technical sense, Rolls-Royce is also completely independent in terms of production at the Goodwood factory in West Sussex. In this way, we retain the authenticity of the brand and also remain a quintessentially British brand.

Is a Rolls-Royce still more likely to be driven by a chauffeur, or do the customers of today want to enjoy the elation of being behind the wheel themselves?
With the introduction of Rolls-Royce Ghost, we have launched a model that our customers actually like to drive themselves. It's a vehicle that one likes to drive for its agility, power and tranquility. The Ghost is perfect for everyday use; it's a grand vehicle exuding serenity, safety and luxury.

Rolls-Royce is offering the so-called Bespoke programme. What exactly does that mean?
Bespoke means made-to-measure. We produce every Rolls-Royce according to our customers’ requests, so no Rolls-Royce leaves our Goodwood factory identical to another. The result is a Rolls-Royce as individual as the fingerprint of its owner. This can be a matter of additional storage compartments, inlaid mother-of-pearl adornments, integration of the family coat of arms into the leather seats, compartments set with jewels, special wood and leather in all kinds of different colours, humidors as well as refrigerators.

Turnover increased by an amazing 171% in 2010. How have things come to develop this way and what role does Germany play in this?
This is indeed a remarkable, global success, and we are expecting another record year for 2011. For one, the reasons for this lie in the availability of the Ghost on the market. Also, we have expanded our dealership network and have initiated marketing and communication programmes that allow us to reach our customers individually and on a personal level. In Europe, Germany has been one of the fastest-growing markets.

Looking at the above figures, Rolls-Royce seems to be one of the few luxury brands not affected by the economic crisis. To what do you attribute this?
The Rolls-Royce brand has always retained its stability in terms of value. Especially in financially insecure times, we represent an option for long-term investment: 70% of all the Rolls-Royce cars every built are still on the streets today. With a Rolls-Royce, our customers invest in a luxury product and not just in a car. As they would when choosing between a piece of jewellery for their wife, or a house on the Côte d'Azur. We don't only compete as a car manufacturer with other car manufacturers, but on the basis of stable values in general. And these are the times to invest in stable values.

Further reading:
Spirited Ghost: a lively Rolls-Royce
The bespoke Rolls-Royce, the ultimate in luxury motoring?