Rolls-Royce to Decide on SUV Expansion After Sales Record

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd. will decide this year whether to follow Bentley into the sport-utility market, as the ultra-luxury brand seeks to expand further after a five-year streak of sales records.

Rolls-Royce will unveil a new convertible planned for mid-2016 this year, and a final verdict on entering the SUV segment is set to be made as well, said Chief Executive Officer Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes.

“We’ve made progress in evaluating options and in understanding better how such a project could work, what’s needed to make it work if we decide to go ahead,” Mueller-Oetvoes said in a telephone interview.

Rolls-Royce delivered more vehicles in 2014 than ever before in its 111-year history, the Goodwood, England-based unit of BMW AG said today. Global sales, which have more than quadrupled since 2009, gained 12 percent last year to 4,063 cars. The marque’s fifth consecutive annual sales record was driven by the Wraith coupe, which was first introduced in 2013, and an updated version of the Ghost sedan.

In addition to buying an unprecedented number of cars bearing Rolls-Royce’s distinctive Spirit of Ecstasy emblem, a record number of consumers opted for exclusive personalized features. Rolls-Royce said it sold more cars costing at least 200,000 euros ($238,000) last year than any other manufacturer.

The U.S. remained the company’s largest market in 2014, ahead of China, United Arab Emirates and the U.K. The best-selling dealership last year was in Abu Dhabi. Rolls-Royce opened six new sales outlets in 2014 including in Mexico City; Calgary, Canada; and Gold Coast, Australia. It now operates 127 dealerships across the globe and plans to add more outlets this year to expand further.

Falling Ruble

In Russia, Rolls-Royce is preparing a price increase to counteract the effect of the dropping value of the ruble, Mueller-Oetvoes said. The company’s two dealerships in Moscow received several orders from Russian customers seeking to invest in assets that keep their value as the ruble’s slump accelerated, he said.

“We were optimistic for Russia and saw a good development there,” Mueller-Oetvoes said, citing strong demand, especially for the 327,000-euro Wraith. “But it’s very difficult now to give an outlook.”

Rolls-Royce deliveries are a small sliver of BMW’s goal of selling more than 2 million cars this year. The brand faces increasing competition for the world’s wealthiest consumers after Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz revived the Maybach nameplate. Volkswagen AG’s Bentley is also expanding, with plans to roll out the world’s priciest SUV next year at about 180,000 euros.

Moonstone Pearl

To fend off the competition, Rolls-Royce has been focusing on made-to-order flourishes and unveiled several limited editions last year, including the 450,000-euro Metropolitan, which featured picnic tables with marquetry composed of 500 small wood pieces arranged to display a cityscape. Its Suhail collection, unveiled last month and named after a star constellation, sparkles in a moonstone pearl color evoking starlight.

The brand, owned by Munich-based BMW since 2003, also produces the 326,000-euro Ghost Series II and the flagship 345,000-euro Phantom.

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