A career BMW-er from 1989 until 2010 when he was appointed CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Torsten Müller-Ötvös’s life is cars and luxury. Our Zeina Mokaddam received unprecedented access to this visionary thinker, and learned more about how he views his role within Rolls-Royce and what makes him tick.
Why did you choose automotives as a career? I’m a car nut basically. When I was a little boy, I knew every car and every model. And, being raised in Munich, you always see that marvellous 4-Cylinder building of BMW. But, becoming part of the industry was never going to be easy. Having studied economics, I looked at other sectors too until, finally, I got the offer of a job at BMW.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role at Rolls-Royce? To constantly keep the brand up to date, and to look in to the future. To understand trends, to understand clients, and to know where we can improve. At Rolls-Royce we strive for perfection – it’s in our blood. This is my task here. We have a very good culture of challenging and supporting each other at the brand.
What’s the secret behind your success? A lot of things. I go with my gut feelings, but I’ve always enjoyed working and am fortunate to have had challenging bosses – and I mean that in a very positive way. I also had the good fortune to be given large roles from the very beginning of my career – this helped develop me. I’ve never been driven by money, for me the reward has always been the challenge.
What is it about luxury cars that fascinates you? I’m fascinated by luxury itself. The details, the extraordinary, rarity, the marketing story behind luxury, the refinement, the branding. Without these, you’ll never be successful. All this I find extremely appealing. I don’t consider Rolls-Royce as an automobile business. We’re a luxury business.
When your customers aren’t buying Rolls-Royces, what else are they buying? Our buyers have multiple lifestyles. They’re deep in to watches, jewelry, technical gadgets, fashion plays an important role too, and living – in the way they furnish their house including what kind of architecture they bring in. All our clients are highly interested in their surroundings. They’re asking how they can style their surroundings. Through this, they’re developing and expressing their personality. I haven’t found a Rolls-Royce customer who doesn’t care about how he/she looks or the way he/she lives.
“From time to time, you need to rock the brand. That’s what we did with Black Badge.” // Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
On the work / life balance:
You’re a busy man. How do you juggle the work / life balance? How do you manage to find time for family and other passions?
For me, work is part of my life. I’m fortunate to work on something that I truly enjoy. For that reason, I’m not even thinking of the balance between work and life. I’m thinking more that it is important to guarantee some private time, but that’s all.
When you’re away from Rolls-Royce, do you find it easy to disconnect from work altogether?
No. Even on a vacation. It’s impossible. Many of our clients have my phone number, and I often get calls. I can never switch my phone off. Anyhow, I’m constantly in the business and happy to be.
After 30-plus years in the business, what still motivates you?
I draw my motivation from the role itself, and of course the brand. Even after ten years in this position at Rolls-Royce, I’m humbled in my role. A 115-year-old brand, and I’m running it with a wonderful team. It is a great honor.
“Strive for perfection, reinvent yourself constantly” // Sir Henry Royce
When are you happiest? When everything runs according to plan, and I’m surrounded by happy people.
What is your greatest fear? To lose my wife and daughter.
What is your earliest memory? I had a little kit-car at two-and-half-years-old. I’ll never forget it.
What is your most treasured possession? I’m not really a material guy.
What is the trait you most admire in yourself? Perhaps it’s not exactly a trait, but I like my attention to details.
What is the trait you most admire in others? Loyalty and passion.
What do you owe your parents? An excellent education in life. Not only academic, but througout life.
How would you like to be remembered? If we’re talking Rolls-Royce… that I took part in an incredible modernization of the brand.
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