Stuff that has everyone all agog with excitement
Almost 120 years since the heritage brand was launched, Rolls-Royce is inching towards a new era — the world of electrification. Khaleej Times caught up with its CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös to talk about the exciting new developments as he marks almost 13 years with the luxury car manufacturer.
Over the years, the brand — founded in 1906 in the UK — has evolved. And by the fourth quarter of this year, clients will receive deliveries of its first fully electric motor car, Spectre, which is dubbed as the world’s quietest vehicle till date.
The car enthusiasts are ready, says Müller-Ötvös, in a world where going ‘electric’ is becoming a norm. “Quite a few of our clients already have an electric car in their fleet. For that reason, I would call it a no-brainer for us to move in that direction. We have plans to go completely electric by 2030,” he says.
The decision is driven by a number of factors. “Number one, we see quite a transformation in the car industry now that going electric in the long run appears to be the right route to take,” says Müller-Ötvös, adding that there is even a history behind the luxury car manufacturer going electric. “Charles Rolls, one of our founding fathers, made a prophecy in 1900. He said that an electric car would probably be the right way to operate in the future. One hundred and twenty two years ago, he made that prognosis and said that once fixed charging is available, it would be the ideal way to go, particularly for Rolls-Royce. And here we are.”
Rolls-Royce has been working on electric cars since 2010 with an electric Phantom being a one-off to gauge market reaction. “The reaction was very positive because silent propulsion is great,” he says. “That’s what Rolls-Royce is all about — the magic carpet ride, so electric propulsion is perfect for us. We are not defined by loud engines or exhaust noises, so the clients loved it.”
Back in those days, charging was not efficient and changing times have only ushered in advancements that have enabled the brand to be ready for a transition by 2030. The time ahead certainly looks exciting for Müller-Ötvös as the brand moves into the next generation of automobile technology. “The clients also understand that times are changing and we might even be forced out of city centres in coming years with combustion engines. I think that would be the end of our brand if one wouldn’t be allowed to drive into cities, or outside cities anymore. That’s also another reason why we will go electric.”
The brand is also embracing change in different aspects. For example, it is also attracting a new market of younger car enthusiasts and more women. This clientele sees Rolls-Royce as much more than a car; it sees the brand as an asset that has great residual value. “Our clients, including the younger ones, invest in an asset. The sustainability of a Rolls-Royce is quite remarkable. Eighty per cent of all Rolls-Royces ever built are still on the roads,” says Müller-Ötvös. “That’s also a testament to the quality — the build quality and the material we are using. Once you are in the family, you stay in the family. The younger clients, in particular, are quite interested in what we can really do.”
As Rolls-Royce moves towards the next era, Müller-Ötvös admits it is a “bold journey”. “We are replacing the existing line-up and by 2030, the entire portfolio will be electric. We have a lot to do over the next couple of years to get it all sorted, to get all the cars into an electric state. It’s not that we would be converting existing ones, but will be building brand new cars.”
Just late last year, the boundary-pushing Phantom: The Six Elements series was unveiled at a gala event in Dubai, one that brought together the epitome of luxury with futuristic technology, art and charity. Six one-of-a-kind vehicles were deemed the latest stars of the Rolls-Royce story, a brand synonymous with all things classically extravagant.
“Being part of a very remarkable charity story was quite something,” says Müller-Ötvös, adding that the project took two years of work. He attended the event to hand over the cars to new owners. Each vehicle took at least 1,000 hours to create with around 60 craftsmen. “I think projects like this one are special because they have a charity dimension to them. It’s more than just ordering a masterpiece. You are also giving something for the betterment,” he adds. During last year’s event, a donation of $1.23 million was divided among Surgeons for Little Lives in South Africa, Harmony House in India, The Beekeepers Foundation in the UAE and Beit el Baraka in Lebanon.
The unveiling showcased six Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II Extended motoring masterpieces, each featuring a unique hand-painted Sacha Jafri Gallery inspired by earth, fire, wind, water and air alongside the sixth element — humanity. These were cars of dreams, something beyond our collective imagination, vehicles that have retained their place as the exclusive domain of some of the world’s most famous celebrities, sports stars and politicians. “It’s part of the ethos of the brand that not everyone should drive a Rolls-Royce, and that only a few can enjoy it. It is what we would call exclusivity in the maximal form,” says Müller-Ötvös.
The launch in the UAE was no coincidence. The country is a huge player in Rolls-Royce’s regional market. “We have a long-lasting history here in the UAE. You see a lot of our cars on the road,” says Müller-Ötvös, adding that one of Rolls-Royce’s most popular models, the Cullinan, lends itself well to the desert area.
“What I have always loved about the UAE is that there’s so much creativity from our clients when it comes to going bespoke and how the car should look. They put in a lot of effort into what the colour should be. We also see a lot of flamboyant cars here,” signs off Müller-Ötvös.
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