Its cars have ethereal names such as Ghost and Phantom but Rolls-Royce has had an altogether more solid presence in the Middle East this year.
At Abu Dhabi Motors, the luxury car maker's sole dealer in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, vehicle sales more than quadrupled in the first 11 months of this year compared with the same period last year. The sales increase of 310 per cent meant the dealership has the second-highest sales of Rolls-Royce worldwide.
"As Rolls-Royce Motor Cars we have felt that customers are going out and spending money again … And we expect more of that in 2011," said Alaa Tarabay, the corporate communications manager for Rolls-Royce in the MENA region.
Mr Tarabay attributed the rise in sales to the "well received" latest Ghost model, as well as the sales of customised vehicles, in which the Abu Dhabi dealership ranks first worldwide. "Abu Dhabi [Motors] has been the number two dealer in terms of sales worldwide after Beijing," he said. "They sell the richest bespoke configurations in the world … That's ranked in total sales of bespoke specifications of cars."
While the numbers of vehicles sold by Rolls-Royce is low compared with other car makers, the prices are not. The Phantom Coupe costs about Dh1,850,000 (US$503,695) - customised models can cost considerably more.
Rolls-Royce, which is part of BMW, declined to say how many cars it sells in the UAE. Worldwide, it sold 1,212 cars in 2008, but suffered a 17 per cent decline last year. But the car maker is on track for a significant recovery this year, said Mr Tarabay. "So far this year we've sold in excess of 2,000 cars worldwide," he said.
"The Middle East region in itself is very important for Rolls Royce. In 2009, every fifth car was sold in the Middle East … We've received over 150 per cent sales growth in the [whole] Middle East region in the first 10 months of 2010, compared to the same period last year," he added.
Total car sales in the UAE are expected to rise by about 8 per cent this year, according to Business Monitor International. The research company forecastsales to rise to 352,913 vehicles, some destined for re-export, for the whole of this year, compared with an 8.5 per cent decline last year.
More mainstream car manufacturers also report growth in sales this year. Al-Futtaim Motors, which sells Toyota and Lexus cars in the UAE, said earlier this year that sales rose by about 35 per cent in the first half compared with the same period last year.