Rolls-Royce Targets Manila Rich as Hanoi Beckons: Southeast Asia

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd. targets to sell as many as 20 sedans in a year in the Philippines to tap the growing number of wealthy people in Asia’s fastest-growing economy.

The Bayerische Motoren Werke AG ultra-luxury unit will open a showroom in the nation’s capital in the fourth quarter, Paul Harris, regional director Asia-Pacific at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, said in an interview in Manila. Rolls-Royce, which opened second showrooms in Bangkok and Taiwan this year, plans to be in Hanoi in the next six months, he said.

“We’ve come in right at the beginning of a growth we see continuing,” Harris said on June 19 after the company signed a dealership agreement this week in Manila. “Given the combination of stability, the growth rate and the overall business atmosphere, it would be wrong for us to come to the Philippines at any other time.”

The British carmaker seeks to tap into Asia’s growing affluence to help drive demand as the debt crisis damps sentiment among Europe’s rich. The number of individuals in Asia Pacific with at least $1 million in investible assets jumped 9.4 percent to 3.68 million last year, with their wealth rising to $12 trillion, according to a report by RBC Wealth Management and Capgemini SA.

The Philippine economy expanded 7.8 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, the fastest in almost three years and the best performance in the region as the nation boosted investment and state spending. It won its first investment-grade rankings from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s this year.

‘Enough Room’

“There’s enough room for the luxury market in the Philippines,” Rommel Gutierrez, president of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. or Campi, said in a mobile-phone message. “We project vehicle sales to increase 10 percent to 15 percent this year and we expect the luxury segment, which accounts for less than 5 percent of total industry sales now, to grow as well.”

Rolls-Royce appointed British Bespoke Automobiles, a unit of Autohub Group, as its official importer-dealer for Manila. An interim facility will be in place by the last quarter and a new showroom will open in early 2014, British Bespoke President Willy Tee Ten said in a June 19 interview.

Vietnam Growth

Sales in Asia, accounting for a third of the global volume, are tracking a very similar pattern to last year with “some possible minor upside,” Rolls-Royce’s Harris said. He expects a significant lift in sales from the Wraith model that will come into full production next year. Global sales at the ultra-luxury carmaker rose to a record 3,575 cars in 2012.

Vietnam’s gross domestic product expanded 4.89 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, slowing from the previous three months. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in February approved a master plan to revamp the economy after a credit slump damped corporate expansion and consumer spending, while a weak property market hurt construction.

Rolls-Royce opened a showroom in Osaka to add to its Tokyo and Yokohama bases in Japan, it said in a statement released after the Manila signing ceremony. It’s set to open showrooms in Perth, Australia, and is planning to open two more shops in India, it said in the statement, without specifying time frames.

Household Spending

Of the top 100 billionaires in the world, 17 are from Asia, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index ranking. One of them is Henry Sy, the Philippines’ richest man.

“High net-worth individuals have been growing in Asia irrespective of economic circumstance,” Harris said. “If that continues to grow, it’s always a good market opportunity for Rolls-Royce.”

Motor-vehicle sales in the Philippines rose 29 percent from a year earlier to a record 41,702 units in the first quarter, according to data from Campi and the Truck Manufacturers Association. Household spending increased 5.1 percent in the three months ended March to 1.09 trillion pesos ($25 billion) from a year earlier, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board.

Bentley Motors Ltd., BMW, Ferrari SpA, Jaguar Land Rover Ltd., Lamborghini, Lexus Motors Ltd., Maserati SpA, Mercedes-Benz Automobil AG and Porsche Automobil Holding SE have also established dealerships in the Philippines.

Rolls-Royce’s Philippine dealer aims to sell between 10 and 20 Phantom, Ghost and Wraith sedans a year, targeting the “captains of the industry” as its likely clients, Ten said. An entry-level Ghost sedan costs 25.9 million pesos, he said.

“People are more open to spend now, unlike 20 years ago when a lot of the rich were stingy,” Ten said in Manila. “They don’t want to wait until they can no longer enjoy the fruits of their labor.”

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