Rolls-Royce ratchets up record sales

Rolls-Royce is the latest United Kingdom-based carmaker to benefit from the emerging markets’ appetite for luxury marques — it reported its best-ever sales last year.

Now owned by BMW, the manufacturer behind the Phantom, Corniche and Ghost models sold 3 538 cars in 2011, setting an annual sales record for the 107-year-old brand.

Rolls-Royce’s brand chief, Torsten Muller-Otvos, said: “We had an outstanding year and we should take a moment to reflect on this great British success story.”

He said: “Our business is in excellent shape. We are developing our dealer network, moving into new markets like South America, expanding our manufacturing operation in Goodwood, West Sussex, to meet global demand, and have plans to develop our product range.”

Like the Volkswagen-owned Bentley, which also reported strong 2011 sales last week, the brand has benefited from strong demand from China. Rolls-Royce said sales in the Asia-Pacific region rose 47%, 23% in the Middle East and 17% in North America.

China and North America were Rolls-Royce’s largest markets last year. Even the UK performed strongly, in spite of a 4.4% fall in registrations for the British car market last year, with sales rising 30%. The brand’s previous sales record was in 1978, when it sold 3 347 cars.

In an insight into the high-spenders on its customer list, Rolls-Royce said it was experiencing a record demand for its programme that fitted out cars according to customer desire. Customisation included champagne sets and cigar humidors.

Demand from emerging markets is one of the reasons why British car exports are set to record a strong 2011, in spite of the fall in the domestic market.

Other UK-based manufacturers will announce their production totals later in January. The expectations are that 2011 production increased by up to 6% on 2010. —

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