COVID helped Rolls-Royce sell a record 5,586 cars last year as the pandemic made the super-rich realise ‘life can be short’.
The luxury marque, whose cars are priced from £233,000 to £432,000, sold the most vehicles globally in its 117-year history.
Chief executive Torsten Muller-Otvos said: ‘Many people witnessed people in their community dying from Covid and that made them think life can be short and you’d better live now rather than postpone until a later date.
‘That also has helped quite massively to [encourage people to] invest into what I would call the nice, lovely things in the world.’
The Sussex-based company, owned by BMW, saw sales rise in every region of the world.
German Mr Muller-Otvos explained: ‘It is very much due to Covid that the entire luxury business is booming worldwide.
‘People couldn’t travel a lot, they couldn’t invest a lot into luxury services…and there is quite a lot of money accumulated that is spent on luxury goods.’
Many buyers were adding to their existing Rolls-Royce collections as most owners have more than one.
The firm said it enjoyed ‘a phenomenal year’ with high demand for all models, particularly the Ghost limousine and Cullinan SUV, reporting all-time records in most sales regions, including Greater China, the Americas and Asia-Pacific, and in multiple countries across the world.
Rolls-Royce at full production capacity: The luxury car maker’s Goodwood plant is working flat-out building bespoke vehicles for clients around the world, posting record sales in 2021
With order books extending into the third quarter of 2022, the company with a boutique factory at Goodwood in West Sussex said bespoke commissions were also at record levels, with customers typically spending double the basic list price to customise their vehicle to their personal tastes. Sometimes the final tally can be much higher
Rolls-Royce proclaimed itself the ‘undisputed leader’ in the super-luxury segment for cars priced over £250,000.
Chief executive Torsten Müller-Ötvös told This is Money: ‘It’s very much down to Covid, as with the entire luxury business world-wide.
‘People cannot travel a lot. They cannot invest in luxury services.
‘For that reason there’s a lot of money accumulated worldwide to be spent on luxury goods. We’ve all profited from that.’
On a serious note he said: ‘People are dying from Covid. It makes people think that life can be short and that it’s better to live now.’
He added that despite 2021 being a ‘volatile and challenging’ year, the biggest challenge was not seeking customers, but satisfying demand which has been ‘never stronger.’
Waiting times for a new Rolls-Royce are currently running at one year.
Mr Müller-Ötvös said: ‘If you order a Rolls-Royce today you will expect to take delivery in about a year from now.’
The Cullinan SUV and Ghost each accounted for 40 per cent of total sales.
Other highlights of the past year included: the unveiling of partially disguised first all-electric production car called Spectre – set for showrooms in 2023 after a year of testing around the world; the launch of Black Badge Ghost in October (priced from £325,000 or £100,000 above the standard Ghost); and the unveiling of its coachbuilt £20million Boat Tail (one of three separate and unique commissions) marking the launch of Rolls-Royce Coachbuild as a permanent fixture in its portfolio.
Spelling out its success, the company said: ‘All Rolls-Royce models performed extremely strongly.
‘Growth has been driven principally by Ghost, with demand surging further, following the launch of Black Badge Ghost in October 2021.
‘This, together with the continuing pre-eminence of Cullinan and the marque’s pinnacle product, Phantom, has ensured order books are full well into the third quarter of 2022.’
The British luxury car maker announced the highest sales in its 117 year history – up by a dramatic 49% year-on-year to 5,586 vehicles
Record sales were driven by its latest new model, the updated Ghost limousine (pictured)
Also helping boost demand to record levels was the Cullinan – Rolls-Royce’s first SUV model that is proving extremely popular among the super rich
The company’s Provenance programme for ‘pre-owned’ or second hand vehicles also enjoyed ‘exceptional’ all-time record sales.
Record bespoke commissions were boosted by examples such as the Phantom Oribe co-created with Hermès, the Phantom Tempus, Black Badge Wraith and Black Badge Dawn Landspeed Collection cars, it said adding: ‘The company signalled its commitment to leading a new contemporary coachbuilding movement with Rolls Royce Coachbuild becoming a permanent fixture in its future portfolio, and with it the unveiling of its latest coach-built masterpiece, Boat Tail.’
Significantly, nearly a third (27 per cent) of all Rolls-Royce customers now opt for the ‘Black Badge’ treatment on their luxury cars – rising to around 40 per cent in some cases and regions.
The Black Badge range has been aimed at a bustling younger market of millionaires, meeting their requirements for stealth-like motors with all-black grilles and design features.
The introduction of the ‘Black Badge’ range has also helped boost sales (pictured Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge)
The Black Badge range has been aimed at a bustling younger market of millionaires, meeting their requirements for stealth-like motors with all-black grilles and design features
It’s paying off handsomely in profits, too, for although Rolls-Royce doesn’t publish its accounts separately from parent company BMW, industry experts who have dived deep into the figures reckon the firm is now jointly the most profitable car company in the world alongside Italy’s Ferrari, with an estimated 50 per cent return on investment.
Rolls-Royce also announced its first all-electric car, Spectre, during 2021 (cheekily in the same week as the launch of the new 007 movie ‘No Time to Die’ in which Bond’s nemesis organisation is called SPECTRE) noting: ‘The extraordinary undertaking of bringing Spectre to market by the fourth quarter of 2023 has now begun, and the most punishing testing protocol ever conceived for a Rolls Royce is underway. This 1.5 million mile (2.5 million-kilometre) journey, which extends to all four corners of the world, will simulate more than 400 years of use for a Rolls Royce.’
It added: ‘While preparations are made for the marque’s all-electric future, Rolls-Royce continues to meet the surge in demand for its current portfolio through a flexible manufacturing process and the dedication of the over 2,000 people who work at the Home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood, West Sussex and around the world.’
The Rolls-Royce factory at Goodwood is currently running at maximum capacity, on a two-shift pattern to fulfil orders from clients around the world, it stressed, noting: ‘Rolls-Royce will continue to invest in its manufacturing plant in readiness for electrification, and in future talent, with a record 37 new apprentices set to join the company in September 2022.’
Mr Müller-Ötvös added: ‘2021 was a phenomenal year for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
‘In the past 12 months, we have recorded our highest-ever annual sales, launched the latest addition to our Black Badge family, stunned the world with our coachbuilding capabilities and made huge strides into our all-electric future. ‘
Ross-Royce boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös (pictured) praised ‘the dedication and commitment of the extraordinary people’ at the car firm as he announced record sales in 2021
Rolls-Royce’s first electric car teased: These are the first images of Spectre – the debut battery-powered limousine built by the luxury firm and due to go on sale in 2023
He continued: ‘Our extremely strong product portfolio, an exceptional bespoke offering, together with the first full year of availability of Ghost, the launch of Black Badge Ghost in October and the continuing record demand for bespoke personalisation, has contributed meaningfully to our extremely strong performance.
‘This is hugely encouraging as we prepare for the historic launch of Spectre, our first all-electric car. Building on this year’s success, we will continue to evolve as a true luxury brand, beyond the realms of automotive manufacturing.’
He praised ‘the dedication and commitment of the extraordinary people’ at Rolls-Royce noting: ‘It is my privilege and pleasure to work alongside them every day.’
The Rolls-Royce boss also suggested that this year could marginally exceed 2021’s record sales, saying: ‘Our future is secure.’
The company is planning a new paint shop and may be recruiting more staff.
Brexit had brought some ‘bureaucracy and red tape’ particularly around bringing in key workers from the Continent, and some labelling issues. But had not halted the sales boom, he said.
Last week British luxury rival Bentley, owned by Volkswagen Group, also announced record global sales – up nearly a third – as it charges ahead with ambitious plans to electrify its entire range.
Fellow prestige brand Aston Martin also announced it had achieved its target to sell around 6,000 vehicles to wholesalers in 2021.
The manufacturer revealed sales jumped by 82 per cent to 6,182 last year, including slightly over 3,000 units of its DBX model to take a 20 per cent share of the luxury SUV market.