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