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‘Hard to predict’ future of Cullinan: Rolls-Royce

Easy rider: The Cullinan SUV acknowledges the fact that even the super-rich have casual lifestyles, go on school runs, carry dogs in the back, and so on.

Rolls-Royce cautious on booming SUV’s long-term future but practical cars to stay

4 Mar 2019

ROLLS-ROYCE is taking a “wait-and-see” approach on the long-term future of the all-new Cullinan – its first SUV – but believes practical vehicles will form part of the 115-year-old British luxury marque’s stable for many years to come.


Asked whether he saw the SUV as a long-term model or one that might disappear after a few generations, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars global CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes told GoAuto in an interview in Melbourne last week that it was “very hard to predict”.


“I think, let’s wait and see,” he said.


“So far, I must say it’s early days, we are very happy with what we get – order bank is strong, customer reaction is great, we see lots of new clients we haven’t seen before, and for the brand very important: so far over 60 per cent of completely new customers are coming to us for Cullinan.


“And, yes, maybe in 10, 15 years we see again different new concepts on the road, that is possible, and then let’s wait and see.


“But I think these kind of concepts which carry far more variability, flexibility, daily driveable cars are also in the future part of our range, that’s for sure, because what we see with ultra-high net worth individuals is that they are getting far more casual – easy-going, family, kids, school runs, dogs in the back.


“I mean, that was the main reason why we brought Cullinan into the market because it was also driven by customers asking us, ‘Come on Torsten, let’s do it. Let’s go into this territory.’”


Other top-end brands such as Bugatti and McLaren have vowed never to build an SUV, but Bentley is doing well with Bentayga, ditto for Maserati and its Levante, Aston Martin has the DBX coming here early next year and Ferrari also has one in development that should appear in 2020.


The early signs are all positive for Rolls-Royce, with Mr Mueller-Oetvoes pointing to a strong buyer reaction across all regions and a global order bank that sees it basically sold out for most of the year.


Asked about order numbers for the SUV, the Rolls-Royce chief told GoAuto: “Right into the fourth quarter, and I’m not talking numbers here, but we are already more or less, I don’t want to say sold out already, but nearly sold out.”


He said this also applied to the Australian market, where the first four Cullinans – described as “the very first Rolls-Royce where we would say a practical car” – were delivered in December.


“Same, because for us it is first come, first served,” he said.


“We are not allocating here any volume to markets, that’s not our business. I don’t have here volume targets for the cars in a way of ‘you need to do this at that’. We have business targets together, profitability targets, our dealers want to earn money, we want to earn money, and for that we need to sell cars.


“Our philosophy is that we only build cars by order. We are not building cars and then flogging them into dealers. So only build by order and who orders first gets the service first and gets next delivery first.


“So for that reason, it’s true for the whole world that we have an order bank that reaches into the fourth quarter because production is sold out until then. That’s the philosophy.”


The first Australian order was placed by an unnamed Sydney woman, which illustrates the rising percentage of female buyers of Rolls-Royce vehicles and the appeal of Cullinan to a broad range of potential customers, irrespective of gender.


Indeed, Mr Mueller-Oetvoes said that 15 per cent of its buyers worldwide are now women – “very much Wraith and Dawn, and more to come with Cullinan” – which, to put this in perspective, is up from “next to zero” five or six years ago.


“Wraith and Dawn, both cars are very appealing for women, and you also see of course that many women are now actively part of the ultra-high-net-worth individuals worldwide, and that also made them, let’s say, a very good and attractive target group for us,” he said.


“America, the UK, really, again, all over the world. China. You see more and more women now with unbelievable responsibilities running their own business, entrepreneurial women, you see that in the Middle East sheikhas running whole entire family businesses and, yes, they are also very discerning customers – in particular with Wraith and Dawn, it has appeared a lot and now Cullinan will drive that up even further.”

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