Rolls-Royce, one of the automotive world's most iconic brands, is counting on its new Ghost model, launched last week, to help it overcome the doldrums caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But her boss expects a lasting crisis with a return to normal "within three years".
For its new sedan, equipped with a 6.75-liter V12 biturbo engine and a minimalist design, the manufacturer is targeting business customers around the world. "We have massively rejuvenated the brand over the past decade, and the average age of our customers is 43," said Rolls-Royce Managing Director Torsten Müller-Ötvös. These multimillionaires or billionaires will have to pay at least 250,000 euros excluding tax for a Ghost in its most refined version, but the addition can reach several millions for the most extravagant options: televisions or an "exceptional" audio system, marquetry or precious leathers, or a luminous ceiling lamp reproducing the celestial vault of the moment of your birth. Very "British" detail: each car is sold with an umbrella in the brand's colors, stored in an integrated case with a drainage system so as not to wet the interior.
For Rolls-Royce, one of the most prestigious car brands in the world, the Covid-19 has caused a storm in a sky already obscured by Brexit. “Of course we were touched. On the one hand, many of our partners around the world, our dealers, have been forced to close "for long weeks or months of confinement, Mr. Müller-Ötvös said. On the other hand, "we have seen a lot of potential customers reconsider their buying decision," especially in April and May, he continues. As a result, sales for the first half of the year were "probably 30% lower than last year at this time," said the manager. He said, however, that this decline was accentuated by an unfavorable comparative effect with a "record" year last year, when the manufacturer had sold "more than 5,000 cars".
But the release of the Ghost should give sales a boost, especially as "we're seeing business pick up" around the world, Müller-Ötvös notes. The order book is regaining enough color for the second production line at the Goodwood plant in the south of the United Kingdom to resume service from this week, he argues, noting that the manufacturer has fired no one since the start of the health crisis. The leader said he was "cautiously optimistic for next year" given the many uncertainties. "We expect the Covid-19 to remain (a difficulty) for some time, until a vaccine is available," he said. "In the medium term, I would say within three years, we should be back to normal, and even better than normal", not only for Rolls-Royce, but also for the luxury car market, further predicts Mr. Müller-Ötvös.
Founded at the beginning of the 20th century, the brand, bought in 1998 by the German sector giant BMW, also faces another challenge: Brexit. The Rolls-Royce boss has repeatedly stated his concerns about the prospect of Britain leaving the EU without a deal. He says the company is "fully prepared," however, having worked upstream with suppliers to anticipate possible tightening of UK import laws, and has also increased its stocks of spare parts and more. The British manufacturer was once part of the same group as the industrial conglomerate of the same name, specializing in aircraft engines, but the two entities were separated in the early 1970s and are now completely independent companies.
Véronique DUPONT / AFP
Rolls-Royce, one of the automotive world's most iconic brands, is counting on its new Ghost model, launched last week, to help it overcome the slump caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But her boss expects a lasting crisis with a return to normal "within three years".
For its new sedan, equipped with a …