Back To Top

[Herald Interview] Rolls-Royce Motor CEO attributes record sales to Asia, Korea

Strong business growth in Asia was behind the record-breaking sales of British luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce last year, particularly in China and South Korea, its head said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

“Our growth was fueled by a strong Asian business and a Korean business. We have seen an uptake in your market by around 40 percent compared to the year 2017 and for that reason I am very satisfied with the results,” said Torsten Muller-Otvos, chief executive officer of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, in an exclusive telephone interview. 

Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, poses with Cullinan, the carmaker’s first SUV. (Rolls-Royce Motor Cars)
Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, poses with Cullinan, the carmaker’s first SUV. (Rolls-Royce Motor Cars)

The 115-year-old carmaker sold a total of 123 units of Rolls-Royce in South Korea last year, a 40 percent increase from 86 units in the previous year, according to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association. Rolls-Royce’s China operation, which accounts for 20 percent of the carmaker’s global sales, also achieved 40 percent growth. 

Despite slowing economies, the subsidiary of the BMW Group sold a total of 4,107 cars across 50 countries, marking the highest annual sales in its 115-year history.

The growth rates last year both in South Korea and China were far above Rolls-Royce’s global sales growth of 22 percent and 2 percent in Japan, which is the largest market in Asia excluding China, according to its figures.

Muller-Otvos said he expects to see further growth in Korea this year, citing Cullinan, a sport utility vehicle that was recently added to its series. The company started delivering Cullinan to customers in Korea late last year.

“Cullinan is our 4x4, our SUV that we launched last year, and that already has quite a strong order bank that reaches into the third quarter of 2019 and for that reason I am confident that we should see more growth in South Korea in 2019,” he said.

While declining to comment on specific business plans, such as dealership expansion, the CEO said the carmaker has approached Korean customers by providing opportunities to visit Goodwood in the UK, home to Rolls-Royce. He believes that it could help Korean customers consider their choice of Rolls-Royce as a “good and sustainable investment.”

The superluxury motor cars are designed and hand-built in the southern English countryside by craftspeople on a mission to realize very personal elements for each car, called Bespoke, which refers to “the freedom to choose, create and commission beautiful objects.”

The CEO said the company is heavily investing in its Bespoke strategy and also future cars, especially the electric drivetrain.

The company has announced that it will electrify Rolls-Royce in the next decade.

“I am convinced that electric propulsion is the future for Rolls-Royce,” he said.

“To that end, two years ago we presented a concept car called 103EX, which had fully autonomous driving and was fully electrically propelled and so on and so forth, so we have that guiding light in front of us and it is something that we will make happen.”

Muller-Otvos has served various posts in the BMW Group since joining the German carmaker in 1989. He took the CEO post at Rolls-Royce in 2010. The German CEO plans to visit Seoul next month for a media event.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BMW Group. It is a separate company from Rolls-Royce plc, the manufacturer of aircraft engines and propulsion systems, the company said.

By Cho Chung-un (