Rolls-Royce is on a roll, with surging sales and a dynamic new model line-up. We asked Eric Shepherd, president of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars North America to explain what’s propelling the growth.
Rolls-Royce has been seeing some remarkable growth in the States over the past few years. What’s been driving it?
First and foremost, it’s the product. When we introduced our Ghost model here in the U.S. in 2010, our sales literally tripled overnight. Ghost gave us a more approachable point to the brand, one that had real appeal to a younger, more entrepreneurial buyer. It also opened up the brand to female buyers. The introduction of the dynamic Wraith coupe last year has continued that growth. And in September, we’ll start offering our updated Series 2 Ghost.
Women, traditionally, haven’t been Rolls-Royce buyers. Why the change?
I think female buyers see the Ghost, along with our new Wraith, as much more approachable than our flagship Phantom. Right now, between 10 and 12 per cent of Ghost sales are to women buyers. Also the wealthy clientele we cater to is becoming much more female-orientated. Today, female business leaders are certainly more visible and successful, and want to enjoy their success.
You’ve just introduced the new Wraith two-door coupe, which is the fastest, most powerful Rolls-Royce ever. Who’s buying it?
Wraith is creating a really exciting new market for us. Yes, our traditional customers are interested in the car. But we’re seeing between 60 and 70 per cent of Wraith buyers being new to the brand. And these buyers are a full 10 years younger than our Ghost customers. These are young, successful entrepreneurs, many of who are in their 30s and 40s. It’s what happens when you build a car with 624 horsepower and the ability to go from zero to 60mph in just over four seconds.
I recently spent a week with a new Phantom Drophead Coupe. The question I got asked most was who would spend over $500,000 on a car?
On average, the person buying a Phantom Drophead would have a net worth of somewhere north of $30 million. And while $500,000 is an incredibly large amount for a vehicle purchase, these are people who also own maybe a luxury yacht, a jet, and four or five different homes. And they are not looking at this as the purchase of a $500,000 car but as something that is part of their overall lifestyle. These are people who appreciate the very finest things in life and simply want the best.
There’s been a lot of talk about whether Rolls-Royce should offer an SUV. What’s your take on this?
The SUV conversation is a very interesting one, and one that we’ve been having internally for a while. ‘Sport’ and ‘utility’ are not necessarily words you associate with Rolls-Royce. But we are always exploring new options based on what our customers are asking us for. Certainly no decision has been made about an SUV; the key here is that we would only build one if we could come up with the design, the features and capability that our customers would expect from a Rolls-Royce.
How important is the Palm Beach market for Rolls-Royce these days?
The entire South Florida market, all the way around the peninsula from Tampa to Palm Beach, is incredibly important to us. We have six dealers in Florida, and next to metro New York City and Southern California, they represent some of the highest sales volumes not only in North America but globally. But what is so intriguing about Palm Beach is that for many of our customers, this might be where they have their second or third home. Often they will have a Rolls-Royce in each location.