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‘We Have A Good Future Potential In India’

Rolls-Royce considers India a strategic market and will look to expand its dealer network as demand picks up in certain regions

Nothing spells luxury like the Rolls-Royce. India has had a long association with the luxury vehicle as it has been the car of choice for the Indian Maharajas. Timelessness and exclusivity are trademarks of a true luxury brand, and Rolls Royce epitomises both. Only 3,785 completely hand-built cars were sold across the globe in 2015, which is the second-highest sale in the company’s 112-year-old history. This year, sales are expected to rise worldwide, with the first two quarters accounting for 1,684 units. Asia Pacific is the largest growth region, and it grew 13 per cent in 2015. Rolls-Royce recently launched the Dawn in Chennai. Sven J. Ritter, regional sales manager, Asia Pacific, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, discussed as to why India is an important market for the company, how the brand is becoming more contemporary and what makes them unique. Excerpts:

How important is India as a market?
In the Asia-Pacific, India is a strategic market, where we have seen standard growth in the past few years and we have a good future potential here. South India is the biggest growing region for us.

In 2004, our first dealership was opened in Delhi, and then in Mumbai, where we launched the Phantom. Since then, we have added Ghost, Wraith and now the Dawn.

Globally, the US is our largest market. In Asia, it’s China, and then Japan. But if you don’t include China, then India is one of the top five markets in the Asia-Pacific.

Who is your target customer here?
We really don’t have a target customer. People who come to us are our customer. And that customer could be of any age and from any industry. What we do see is that we have a lot of entrepreneurs, captains of industry, who buy our cars. Customers who truly want to have the best car in the world and something very bespoke.

Rolls-Royce is now becoming a lot more contemporary. Can you elaborate on that?
We are certainly sticking to the timeless design principles, but we want to be contemporary and modern. For instance, the colour combination in the Dawn is bright and edgy. The upholstery is Mandarin Orange. It’s probably something that we haven’t seen too much in the past. But now with newer products with more bold and edgy designs, we do see more customers coming to us. Customers, who may not have bought a Rolls-Royce before, are now attracted by the new products that we are launching. Then, there is also the niche factor. We are very exclusive. A Rolls-Royce is not something you will see on every street corner. It is completely bespoke.

Can you give us examples of the kind of customisation that can be done?
We can produce any colour of your choice. We have more than 44,000 different colours. You can bring us a colour sample, whether it is a piece of cloth, your nail paint, or anything. There is an endless variety of colours available for interiors as well as for the exteriors. 

The wood that we use in the interior of the car can also be customised. For instance, customers want it to be a specific wood, may be from their own estate or from a particular tree. Or they want it to have some motifs or carving, we can do that. Customers mostly want head crest designs, motifs, some individual colour combinations on the seats. It’s totally up to their imagination. 

We can build you a one-off car. We have customers who buy a car for up to $7 million, so it is totally up to them what they want their car to look like. Whether it is a small bespoke feature or a whole new car, we can do it.

Will the price vary as per the customisation?

Yes, of course. Our engineers have to consider the feasibility in terms of safety and other regulations. In the end, most of the requests we can meet. But obviously there is a price to be paid for customisation. 

Are most of your cars self-driven or chauffeur-driven?
In India, the Phantom and the Ghost are mostly chauffeur-driven. But as more of the Wraith and the Dawn are getting sold, we will see more self-driven cars. We have customers who drive their Ghost over the weekend, while during the week, the driver drives them. Right now our most popular car in India is the Ghost, which is the ultimate business limousine. But that’s also because the Ghost was launched earlier in 2010. We have had the Wraith for two years and now we have launched the Dawn.

What is your dealer network in India like?
We have three dealer partners in six locations. We will look at more opportunities if we see more demand in certain areas. 

From conception to development, how much time did it take the Dawn to hit the road?
It took about five years. That is the average time between when a new car is conceptualised and launched.

What is the price of the Dawn?
It starts at Rs 6.25 crore in India. It will take about 4-6 months from when the car is ordered to its delivery; it also depends upon the demand of the vehicle. If you add customisations to it, then it will increase the lead time. For instance, if you are planning to order the Dawn now, you will only get it sometime next year.

This article was published in BW Businessworld issue dated 'Oct. 17, 2016' with cover story titled 'The Luxury Special 2016'

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