Rolls-Royce CEO: "We're Not In The Car Business"

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A strange thing to say for one of the world's oldest automakers, but here's why...

At the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este on the shores of Lake Como, CarBuzz had a chat with Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos, who curiously revealed that Rolls-Royce is "not in the car business."

That was in response to questions on Rolls' electric future. As we were told by BMW executives at Villa d'Este, Chinese luxury car buyers demand combustion engines, and electric mobility is seen as a poor man's move in the Far East. When asked if this perception might hurt Rolls-Royce's brand image, given its pursuit of electric cars like the Spectre, Muller-Otvos dismissed it entirely.

"No, it doesn't apply to us because we are not in the car business. It sounds funny now, but we are in the luxury goods business."

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There's a clear distinction between cars and luxury goods made by Muller-Otvos. Mere A-to-B transportation is the realm of those in the car-making business, and no one buys a Rolls as a commuter. "Nobody needs us as a means of transportation to go from A to B. That is not and never will be a decision behind buying a Rolls Royce because buyers have multiple cars," Muller-Otvos explains.

And that's the big difference between being a car brand and being a luxury brand. It's also why Rolls' clients will commission a bespoke car and wait more than a year to receive the product. Although Rolls-Royce will never keep customers waiting more than 15 months for a new car, those customers understand that luxury goods are not instant, off-the-shelf items.

The only exception to this 15-month rule is for Coachbuild models, which are the result of an exhaustive four-year process.


The person who buys a Rolls has several other vehicles in their garage (or garages), and a Rolls-Royce is just another jewel in the display case. Because of this, Muller-Otvos says Rolls-Royce clientele have "a great openness towards electrification" and that many "already have an electric car, be it a Porsche or a Tesla or whatever - they are already experimenting with an electric drivetrain."

"Our buyers are not thinking, 'Should I buy [a Spectre] or buy a combustion engine car?' That is not in their mind. It is all about the fascination of Spectre. 'I want one.'"

And when you have that sort of money, you get what you want, and you don't compromise. That's also why Rolls-Royce buyers are likely to add the Spectre to their existing clutch of Rollers rather than being bought to replace one of them. "I don't see that this car is cannibalizing others," proclaims Muller-Otvos. "Most of our clients also own multiple [Rolls-Royces] ... and if they like the other one as well, bingo."

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