With the upper classes enjoying one of the largest wealth gaps in modern history, Rolls-Royce had a phenomenal sales year in 2021. Volume surpassed every other annum in its 117-year history, which might encourage one to assume that the business would be interested in maintaining the status quo. But that’s not to be the case, with CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös having confirmed that Rolls-Royce is fully committed to abandoning internal combustion.
The automaker has said that its first series-production electric vehicle will arrive in 2023. However, it would like to have every gasoline-driven model in its lineup replaced by EVs by 2030 and the relevant strategies are already being put into action. From here onward, Rolls-Royce won’t be introducing any new combustion-reliant models.
Having spoken with Rolls’ CEO this week, Autocar was able to verify that the second-generation Ghost was the last of its kind. The company is shifting exclusively to EVs and has no intention of second-guessing itself. Müller-Ötvös stated that the ultra-premium-luxury brand will be able to accomplish this monumental feat in under a decade thanks to help from the rest of BMW Group. But he added that Rolls will need to be careful to ensure profitability is retained during its grand transition.
“One thing is clear: we will never bring a car to market that isn’t as profitable as the combustion-engined cars. That’s my credo. I would like to drive contribution margins per car, because I’m in the business of making profit: That’s my task in the BMW Group, not making volume,” the CEO explained.
That’s smart-guy talk for saying that the cars will either cost more to buy or be cheaper to make. There’s even a solid chance it could mean both.
“We’re leveraging the BMW Group’s scale as we have done in the past: in a very intelligent way. We’re using components from the group which fit us, which make a Rolls-Royce truly a Rolls-Royce,” Müller-Ötvös continued. “We aren’t into rebadging existing bodies from mass-manufactured cars as Rolls-Royces, so we take components. We would be foolish not doing so.”
I’m probably being overly critical. But that sounds a lot like Maserati’s role within Fiat Chrysler (now Stellantis), so I am now banking on Rolls-Royce running with the cheaper-to-make strategy whether or not it jacks up the price. Lowering manufacturing costs has been one of the promised benefits of widespread electrification. However, we’ve yet to see it manifesting on any dealer invoices or window stickers.
Still, the executive explained that there were more factors at play than short-term profitability. Rolls-Royce is also considering government influence and hoping to solidify relationships with youthful customers that just happen to have access to financial resources the rest of us could only dream of.
Müller-Ötvös highlighted the UK government’s planned 2030 ban on new ICE car sales as a particular incentive but said: “We aren’t only driven by legal: we’re also driven by our fairly young clientele worldwide, and we’re seeing more and more people asking actively for an electrified Rolls-Royce.”
The age of the average Rolls-Royce buyer has dropped sharply in recent years to just 43, and Müller-Ötvös notes that “quite a lot of our clients already own an electric car, be it a Tesla, a BMW or some other model”, and so have experience when it comes to operating EV chargers and range management.
He wouldn’t be drawn on the technical details of Rolls-Royce’s future EVs beyond confirming that “the entire portfolio will be electrified”. The Spectre’s 150 million-mile testing programme will no doubt inform the development of its future range-mates, accelerating the lead time of each EV based on Goodwood’s Architecture of Luxury.
Electrifying the entire portfolio, said Müller-Ötvös, is “a huge task for a relatively small company”, but the required investment won’t automatically translate into more expensive cars. “We never price ‘cost-driven’, we price ‘segment-driven’ and ‘substance-driven’,” explained Müller-Ötvös, emphasising that the Spectre – which will arrive in 2023, shortly after the similarly shaped Wraith bows out – will be priced according to its positioning rather than its powertrain.
It would be crazy for Rolls to price its vehicles anywhere near what they’re actually worth. The company’s very existence is predicated on rich people not having any idea of what a motor vehicle actually costs to manufacture.
But I’m not going to bash the company for transitioning into EVs because it actually makes a lot of sense. Rolls-Royce is known for building heavy, comfortable automobiles with whooshy powertrains and borderline silent cabins. That’s literally the luxury EV experience in a nutshell and there’s absolutely no way someone buying a Rolls-Royce will care one whit about range anxiety. Ranges are improving and the massive battery packs they’ll throw into these Anglo-German monsters should be sufficient for getting occupants to and from their private jets.
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