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[Herald Interview] Rolls-Royce seeks younger, cooler image

Forget about the dark and heavy-body image of Rolls-Royce. The British supercar is now enticing the youth with its customized policies, said Michael Alexander Schneider, general manager of Asia-Pacific at Rolls Royce Motor Cars.

“We have a history of 120 years, but we are also very fond of our future. We are giving the brand cooler and luxurious appeals within our lineup, and whatever we do will greatly help the new customer groups,” he said in an interview with The Korea Herald on Thursday. Schneider visited Seoul to speak at the International Luxury Conference 2015 held May 20-21.

What remained as the ultimate traditional luxury car for more than a century ― the price of the company’s top-tier model Phantom starts from 590 million won ($541,360), followed by Ghost series starting at 410 million won and Wraith at 400 million won ― is moving fast to create a younger legion of Rolls-Royce fans by holding parties with DJs instead of black-tie classical banquets. 

The Rolls-Royce Wraith (Rolls-Royce)
The Rolls-Royce Wraith (Rolls-Royce)

“We have the right way to approach these customer groups. We’ve picked up where they are in their lifestyles. The brand is much more open now. The average age of our customers groups in 2010 was 53 years, but as of now the age is 45 on a global scale,” he said.

And the new customers have different attitudes toward cars.

While Rolls-Royces have been generally perceived as a reward for the owners’ achievements, Schneider acknowledges that people are taking a more casual approach to it. In Korea, it is the tech entrepreneurs who are leading the phenomenon.

“They want insights into the brand. Horsepower, the trim and others are important but not the decisive factors. They want to know what brand they are buying,” he said.

Women drivers have also increased. “To them, the car is less about showing success. The marketing approach is more about showing emotional appeal,” he said.

And for such casual drivers, Rolls-Royce has introduced Wraith, a two-door car. Launched worldwide in 2013 and in Korea in 2014, the model has adopted two different colors on the body in order to give a younger and cooler image. 

Michael Alexander Schneider, general manager of Asia-Pacific at Rolls Royce Motor Cars, speaks to The Korea Herald on Thursday at the Millennium Seoul Hilton Hotel. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Michael Alexander Schneider, general manager of Asia-Pacific at Rolls Royce Motor Cars, speaks to The Korea Herald on Thursday at the Millennium Seoul Hilton Hotel. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

As a result, Wraith is doing well here, despite being a coupe that hasn’t done well in Korea, Schneider said. The number of Wraith’s sold in the inaugural year of 2014 in Korea has reached half of the company’s best-selling Ghost’s sales figure.

“We have this offer for individualization and personalization so you can create your own car: you don’t have to buy a black-black car. You can choose whatever color you want. Along with the exterior we also have a vast color range for the interior.

“We say that bespoke is the Rolls-Royce: the true luxury is to cope with the demand of clients and need for personalization. No other brand offers the same level of designers and engineers with expertise like we do,” Schneider said.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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