CEO of Rolls-Royce Cars sees po­ten­tial in Mid­dle East de­spite the chal­lenges

7 Days in Dubai - - BUSINESS - @spluck­rose si­mon@7days.ae

The Mid­dle East has plenty of po­ten­tial de­spite the ob­sta­cles pre­sented by low oil prices and un­rest, the head of ul­tra-lux­ury car maker Rolls-Royce has said.

Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO, Rolls-Royce Mo­tor Cars, de­scribed the re­cent suc­cess of the brand in the re­gion as “re­mark­able” and ex­pects more to come even if times are “chal­leng­ing”.

Af­ter all, its show­room in Abu Dhabi has been the best-sell­ing Rolls-Royce deal­er­ship in the world for three years in a row, with Dubai not far be­hind.

Speaking to 7DAYS on the side­lines of the open­ing of the world’s first Rolls-Royce Bou­tique last month, Muller-Otvos said: “Dubai is within our five big­gest world­wide lo­ca­tions and the whole Mid­dle Eastern mar­ket is our se­cond big­gest re­gion af­ter the United States, a re­mark­able de­vel­op­ment over the last five years.

“Five years ago no­body would have thought the Mid­dle East would ever be on such lev­els and that un­der­lines the po­ten­tial here in the mar­ket.

“The fore­cast for the next cou­ple of years when it comes to de­vel­op­ment of wealth, de­vel­op­ment of ul­tra-high net worth in­di­vid­u­als and high-net worth in­di­vid­u­als is very promis­ing. So I have lots of hope for the Mid­dle East.

“Yes, the busi­ness cur­rently is a lit­tle bit more chal­leng­ing due to oil prices, stock mar­kets and po­lit­i­cal un­rest in the re­gion but that is some­thing that I would call tem­po­rary and the mar­ket here will al­ways be one of our most im­por­tant.”

NEW TAR­GETS

The growth in the Mid­dle East co­in­cides with a change in di­rec­tion at the firm, which has tweaked its line-up to at­tract a younger clien­tele, in­clud­ing the new Black Badge range, fea­tur­ing more power, agility and a darker look, such as a black Spirit of Ec­stasy. Muller-Otvos calls it the “al­ter-ego” of Rolls-Royce. By Si­mon Pluck­rose

“What we are do­ing with in­tro­duc­ing, for in­stance, the Wraith then Dawn now Black Badge is that we are cater­ing for a younger clien­tele and for a clien­tele that clearly loves to drive cars them­selves and not be chauf­feured,” he said.

“So th­ese cars de­liver what Rolls-Royce is all about – wafta­bil­ity, magic car­pet – but also fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ences be­hind the wheel.”

GROW­ING CLIEN­TELE

The strat­egy ap­pears to be work­ing, with Roll­sRoyce record­ing its se­cond high­est sales in its 112-year his­tory last year, sell­ing 3,785 cars. Muller-Otvos said: “When you look back, Roll­sRoyce was prob­a­bly more per­ceived as chauf­fer drive for older clien­tele and that has dra­mat­i­cally changed over the last cou­ple of years. We have brought down the av­er­age age by over 10 years, which is very much in line with what you see when it comes to wealth. More and more mil­len­ni­als are gen­er­at­ing wealth. You don’t see so much in­her­ited wealth any more, it’s self-funded busi­ness.” Muller-Otvos said 80 per cent of own­ers are now en­trepreneurs, adding: “I think you need to cater for that de­vel­op­ment and we have done so with the prod­uct but also with the way we do mar­ket­ing, so­cial me­dia.” Cit­ing the new bou­tique in City Walk, he added: “We are find­ing un­con­ven­tional ways to ad­dress peo­ple. I think you need to at­tract, you need to en­ter­tain, you need to ex­cite our clien­tele as they are highly dis­cern­ing.”

FRESH CHAL­LENGE

But, as the range ex­pands – a fifth model, the Cul­li­nan is in the pipe­line – will that mean the Rolls will lose some of its pre­cious ex­clu­siv­ity? Muller-Otvos doesn’t think so. He said: “Ex­clu­siv­ity is very much re­lated to pric­ing and you don’t find us low­er­ing price. We would never com­pro­mise on pric­ing be­cause pric­ing is ba­si­cally your sta­tus in the mar­ket.

“But over the last cou­ple of years we have seen grow­ing suc­cess, of course, but in com­par­i­son to the over­all mar­ket it is very small. We are sell­ing around 4,000 cars a year so that is a very small drop in the ocean of car busi­ness, a pre­cious one but a small drop.

“I don’t think there is a big dif­fer­ence if you sell 2,000, 3,000 or 4,000 as long as you don’t see th­ese prod­ucts ac­cu­mu­lat­ing at one place. We are now rep­re­sented in more than 60 coun­tries world­wide, with more than 130 deal­er­ships.”

BOSS: Torston Muller-Otvos

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