Question: Mr. Müller-Ötvös, you have been CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars for almost 14 years. What has changed during this time? TMÖ: First of all, our customers have changed a lot during this time. When I started, they had an average age of 56 years - now it's 42 years. But the customers themselves have not only become significantly younger, but also the user profile of a Rolls-Royce is now completely different. At that time we had 80 percent chauffeur-driven vehicles and only 20 percent self-drivers – today it is exactly the opposite. Question: What caused this change - is it the new markets in Asia or a different image of automotive luxury in general? TMÖ: Luxury has changed a lot in the last ten years. We therefore have a completely different portfolio in order to be able to serve customers accordingly. After the BMW Group took over Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in 1998, there was initially only the Rolls-Royce Phantom for many years. After that there was a completely different portfolio with models like the Ghost, a Dawn or a Wraith, which also appealed to self-drivers and younger customers. A clear rejuvenation brought the introduction of the Black Badge models. At first we were concerned that this would bring in new customers, but would also turn away existing customers. The opposite is the case. We had originally calculated that Black Badge models would make up 15 percent of sales. Depending on the model, we are now at around 40 percent.
Question: Rolls-Royce jumped on the SUV and off-road vehicle band late with the Cullinan. Does a luxury brand like Rolls-Royce need an SUV? TMÖ: An SUV is now fundamental to customer success, even in the absolute luxury segment. Otherwise, customers would drive a model from another manufacturer, as it was a long time ago. We certainly weren't the first, but the Cullinan came onto the market at exactly the right time. The Cullinan has brought us entirely new customers as a brand. It is an absolute family car for every day; a Rolls-Royce that can also get dirty once in a while. You can take it casually to friends, to the office or just take the kids to sports. Every second new Rolls-Royce is now a Cullinan. Question: How important is BMW as a group behind the British brand Rolls-Royce? TMÖ: Clearly: without BMW, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars would no longer exist in its current form. BMW enables us to use technologies that we would otherwise not be able to access with our exclusive numbers. In contrast to other brands, however, a Rolls-Royce is not a BMW in a different guise; we develop and produce completely independent models. Our customers appreciate that and they ask for it, because after all we are in a completely different price segment than BMW. When I started, the average selling price of a new Rolls-Royce was around 250,000 euros – today we are double that. It's also about technical details, because otherwise we wouldn't be able to enforce these prices on the market in any way. For example, our customers know that a V12 engine comes from BMW. However, this unit was tailored to the respective vehicle in a completely different way and, in addition to its very own character, has its own displacement of 6.75 liters. This is exactly what our demanding customers want.
Question: Unlike other luxury car brands, Rolls-Royce has so far not relied on cooperation with other luxury labels outside the car industry. Will that change in the future and might that not appeal to new and even younger customers? TMÖ: Of course, we have also been cooperating with other luxury brands for many years - but this is done very exclusively and only on special individual request. For example, if a customer wants a clock from a specific watch brand to be installed on the dashboard of their Rolls-Royce, we can make that possible without advertising. Our degree of customization knows no limits. And of course there have been numerous high-image luxury labels for years that would be very happy to work with us, for example in special series. But who should that be? As Rolls-Royce, we are the ultimate luxury brand. Don't water that down. Question: Where do you see the Rolls-Royce car brand in the next 10 to 15 years? TMÖ: We have set the right course and you will see that with our new products in the coming years. Clearly, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars will be electric - with fully electric models and no plug-in hybrids. A Rolls-Royce has to drive like only a Rolls-Royce can – regardless of whether it has a combustion engine or an electric drive. Our first model, the Rolls-Royce Specter, which exceeded all expectations, shows how successfully this works. At Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, perfection is about more than just making the best products. It is a culture, an attitude and our guiding philosophy. Our founding father Sir Henry Royce said: 'Strive for perfection in everything you do'. The Specter was developed within that culture. It sets the direction for the future of our brand and is the perfect answer to the call from the world's most discerning people to improve the electric car experience, because Specter is a Rolls-Royce first and an electric car second. Customization will remain a central element for us. The manufacture in Goodwood clearly makes the difference. Customers come to us and are intensively involved in putting together their own vehicle. We mustn't close our eyes to new trends, but we don't necessarily have to be the first.
Question: How important is the site in Goodwood, UK, for Rolls-Royce in this context? TMÖ: Goodwood is both the physical and spiritual home of Rolls-Royce; the only place in the world where we design and handcraft our unique luxury products, with a unique, personal connection to our rich history. Far more than just a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and the company's headquarters, it offers visitors an immediate introduction to our brand: beautiful, elegant and impressive, but also creative, vibrant and constantly evolving. In its design and construction it embodies our core values of precision, attention to detail and pride in this great British institution. He is his own private universe and yet connected to the world. Question: Customers in the price segment above 300,000 euros are more demanding than ever. This can hardly be illustrated by customer clinics or analyses. How are customer requests collected, especially for new models? TMÖ: Our salespeople have a particularly close relationship with most of our customers. I myself have known many of our customers for many years and when I'm traveling on business, there are appointments with the customers on every trip. So I spend around ten days a month on the various markets - that's how you get to know the wishes of customers and potential customers very well. The interview was conducted by Stefan Grundhoff