Black Badge is playing a huge role in the current success of Rolls-Royce. Within a few short years, it has helped reposition the brand – attracting younger buyers, and also increasing the proportion of female buyers. Rolls-Royce is no longer an ‘older gentleman’s motor’, instead, it is increasingly the choice of this generations new breed of ambitious, dynamic and hugely successful entrepreneurs and global game-changers.
Our Zeina Mokaddam (below) joined Rolls-Royce Motor Cars CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös (top) and his exemplary team for the launch of Cullinan Black Badge. That English marque Rolls-Royce would choose the Emirates for such an important launch shows the importance the brand places on the region for the success of this new Cullinan variant.
Torsten’s time in Dubai provided us with unprecedented access to a man whose life is steeped in automobiles and luxury. First, let’s look at Rolls-Royce through his eyes, and learn his view of the region.
How important is the Middle East market to Rolls-Royce? In two words – very important. The reason is, we have a long history in the region. That’s clear from the number of Rolls-Royce’s you see in the streets here. The region ranks as our third largest market after North America and China. The market has developed nicely over recent years, particularly following our marketing approach which has attracted a younger clientele. We’re not immune from recessionary tendencies of our markets – even here. Our owners are doyens of industry, running their own businesses, and CEOs. And when your own business comes under economic constraints due to shortfalls, then of course you are maybe not in the market for a new car. But that recovers quickly when the economy strengthens. We had a blip some years ago, but things are back nicely.
Torsten on luxury: Luxury is a very personal thing. I find our clients in the region very interesting when it comes to their desires in luxury. You might be aware we are running Bespoke – an entire internal organisation within Rolls-Royce Motor Cars – and nobody else can deliver bespoke as Rolls-Royce can deliver it. Every car that we ship to the Middle East is highly bespoke. I’ve never seen as much creativity as I have from our clients here. Brilliant combinations of colours, designs, marquetry, and set-ups. I would never teach customers what their tastes should be. We are here to build their dreams.
Torsten on how Black Badge changed the brand: When we launched Black Badge in 2016, it was quite an experiment. We had high hopes, and the reality of its success is even higher than we could have hoped. Black Badge has changed the face of the brand in many positive ways. We have new clients, younger clients, more females – currently around 15% of all buyers are women. These figures are reflected globally, in the Middle East region, and in Kuwait too.
Torsten on new directions and change: We have a culture of constantly reinventing ourselves. It’s like Sir Henry Royce said, “Strive for perfection, reinvent yourself constantly”. We took risks, that’s for sure. There’s a need to move a big brand from time to time. The biggest discussions revolved around whether what we were doing would scare away our long-standing customers. It didn’t happen. Those customers appreciated what we did immensely. They decided it may not be for them, but they saw that was the way to keep Rolls-Royce moving forward, to keep the brand young. we also found new ways to communicate. But we’ve always respected our heritage – it would be foolish not to.
Torsten on going electric: Our customers will embrace this. Electric fits with the brand extremely well. It’s silent, it’s torquey, it’s powerful, it delivers what we call ‘waftability’. We see a lot of our clients already own at least one electric car – so there will be no resistance against us introducing electric.
Torsten on the experience: For Rolls-Royce, it’s also about the immersive experiences that money can’t buy. We are building and creating unbelievable experiences. It is never about buying a Rolls-Royce. We have created a luxury ecosystem – Whispers – and we’re offering our top customers a permanently luxury lifestyle. It’s more than a concierge – it’s an exclusive ecosystem for Rolls-Royce owners.
Torsten on exclusivity: We sell around 4,000 vehicles a year around the world. For as long as we keep it like that, as a little drop in the luxury market, then I’ll be happy with it.
Torsten on the future: Autonomous of course, electric of course, 3D-printed bodies perhaps, with AI embedded in to the cars.
Get more Torsten here!