A.Ollls-Royce isin some ways, just like any other car manufacturer. A newly renovated showroom in Sunningdale, near London and even closer to a renowned golf club where its vehicles would look great, doesn't seem out of the ordinary. Some might think a bright yellow Cullinan on display is a bit brash (one spokesperson insists it's “expressive”). But it's a SUV and this makes it the company's best-selling model, because SUVs tend to be. And, like other automakers, Rolls is embracing battery power, promising to go all-electric by 2030. Deliveries of the Specter, its first electric vehicle (ev), debuted last fall and is expected to account for 20% of sales this year. As part of BMW, he can call on his German relative to ev technologies such as battery cells and motors.
But that’s where the similarities with the rest of the industry end. On the one hand, Roller Skates are perfectly suited to electrification. Batteries eliminate the need to muffle engine noise: advertisements once promised that the only disturbance in the cabin was the ticking of the clock. While other companies are concerned about the affordability of evs, the Specter's £330,000 ($420,000) list price won't make buyers cry. It's more than a petrol Cullinan or Ghost, a smaller saloon, but a bargain compared to the Phantom limousine, which will set you back £420,000. And that's just the starting price you tack expensive add-ons on top of. The average Rolls actually sells for around £430,000. The company considers itself a luxury goods company rather than an automobile manufacturer. No kidding.
On closer inspection, the exhibition hall is also distinct. It houses a workshopa wood-paneled haven where customers can caress rare leathers, assemble models to evaluate two-tone paints, or admire a 1,340 headliner directed lights imitating the night sky.
If that wasn't enough, they can visit the company's base at Goodwood in Sussex or a handful of 'private offices' around the world to connect with designers and commission more elaborate touches. Last year, a customer from the Middle East ordered a car adorned with mother-of-pearl and a star-shaped headliner on the day he was born. The feeling of belonging to an exclusive club is enhanced by Whispers, an app that connects to your car but also acts as a social network for owners, where plutocrats can chat with other plutocrats.
Rolls-Royce is tiny, guaranteeing the exclusivity that attracts wealthier motorists. It delivered just 6,032 cars in 2023, but has a monopoly on the most expensive vehicles, ensuring bloated order books. Few car manufacturers are able to control their net margins, estimated at more than 20% (BMW does not divulge such crude details).
If there's a bump in the road, it's a bump that Rolls will likely slide over. Last year, the company sold just 11 more cars than in 2022. Sales in China, its second-largest market after America, have fallen due to a struggling economy. But the brand has always favored rarity rather than volume. It is expanding its program to make more custom models. More and more buyers want exclusive and expensive features, such as scented headrests. And luckily for Rolls-Royce, they're willing to pay a lot to get them. ■
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