Dubai: Trade wars, Middle East tensions, a global slowdown - none of these mattered for the good people at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. The British super-luxury carmaker closed 2019 with an unprecedented 25 per cent growth to deliver 5,152 units - the best ever tally in its storied 116-year history.
Its performance turned on one single model - the recently launched Cullinan, Rolls’ first ever SUV and which then accounted for 40 per cent of overall volumes. And it was also the main driver in Middle East markets coming up with a 29 per cent growth year-on-year.
And the Cullinan - starting from Dh1.19 million - will keep getting the Rolls’ numbers right this year as well. “We (already) have an order bank on the Cullinan until the second quarter (of this year) - if anyone’s interested in a Black Badge version (from Dh1.4 million), they may have to wait longer,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO, in a conference call.
“Cullinan has proved to be the recipe for success, particularly in these markets. We took our time to develop it, we had extensively tested prototypes in the Middle East, and we got the car exactly how customers want from us.
“And a 25 per cent overall growth in one year is unbelievable and unseen. We have always seen growth year by year, but to cross 25 per cent was exceptional.” (Another UK manufacturer, Aston Martin, also reported 2019 results, but in stark contrast turned out to be quite a disappointment. It will now be looking for a drastic lift from the imminent launch of its own SUV, the DBX.)
US, China take a shine
Rolls’ full-year numbers owe a lot to demand in the US, which took in 30 per cent of overall deliveries, and China, which accounted for 25 per cent. So, whatever was simmering in terms of trade tensions between the two countries did not make any sort of dent on the carmaker’s fortunes.
The Middle East contributed more than 10 per cent, which has been the case historically.
For this year, the CEO expects a similar tally - or flat growth in other words - as it will launch production of a successor to the Ghost by the third quarter and deliveries in the fourth. (The old Ghost ceased production last year.)
Go slow with self-driving
Rolls - and more manufacturers are veering towards this view - will bide its time getting onto the self-driving bandwagon. “Autonomous (driving) may have been a little bit over judged in the past,” said Müller-Ötvös. “Development is not as fast as many thought it might happen. Our clear strategy is unchanged - once technology is at a level where it is really beneficial to our clients, we will introduce it in one of our products.”
But electric plans are on
It was last year that the carmaker announced it did have electric ambitions. “The project is in the making; the long-term commitment of the brand is to be fully electric,” the CEO said. “That keeps us busy and it will happen this decade.”