x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

More than just a Ghost of a chance

Luxury continues to rule the road in the UAE, with sales of Rolls-Royces rising by more than 150 per cent so far this year compared with the same period last year.

Rolls-Royce’s strong Middle East sales performance can be attributed to a regional economic recovery and post-Ramadan spending.
Rolls-Royce’s strong Middle East sales performance can be attributed to a regional economic recovery and post-Ramadan spending.

Luxury continues to rule the road in the UAE, with sales of Rolls-Royces rising by more than 150 per cent so far this year compared with the same period last year.

Torsten Mueller-Otvos, the chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, a unit of BMW, said the jump in sales stemmed from a regional economic recovery and increased activity after Ramadan.

"The economy is picking up," Mr Mueller-Otvos said during a visit to Dubai yesterday. "We see customers coming back into our showrooms, spending money for luxury cars. There is a lot of confidence back in the market here."

The sales growth is also driven by the introduction of the Ghost, a cheaper model popular with younger drivers that opened up Rolls-Royce to a new segment of customers, he said. About 80 per cent of all Ghost buyers were new to the brand, he said.

Mr Mueller-Otvos was optimistic that the luxury car maker's sales, globally and in the region, would double by the end of the year.

"The economic signal is pointing in the right direction, and our customers are again back and prepared to, let's say, indulge themselves to spend money on Rolls-Royce," he said.

It is an encouraging sign after one of the most difficult years yet for the global car industry.

Sales dipped for many car makers as consumers put off big-ticket purchases and continued driving their current vehicles. While there are no official statistics for the UAE, sales of vehicles are understood to have dropped after nervous banks began tightening criteria for car loans.

The research company Business Monitor International estimates the UAE car market shrank by 8.5 per cent last year to 324,900 vehicles, with some destined for export.

Rolls-Royce sales also dropped. Last year the car maker sold 1,002 cars, down from the 1,212 the previous year.

In the Middle East, Rolls-Royce sales were down by about 10 per cent last year.

In the first three quarters of this year, the company has already sold 1,728 vehicles, up 274.8 per cent from the same period last year.

And in the UAE, customers continue to spend extra to tailor the vehicles to their liking. Abu Dhabi's dealership continues to sell the most bespoke Rolls-Royces globally - every car that rolls off the showroom floor is customised.

That can easily double the already steep prices. The Phantom costs about Dh1.6 million (US$435,587), while the Ghost is priced to start at Dh1.1m.

One such example, created by the capital's dealership, is the "Shaheen", which is Arabic for falcon. It has elements of red and cream, and has the head of a falcon stitched into the headrest.

Mr Mueller-Otvos said its distribution partners in the UAE were building new dealerships to gear up for the growing demand. "Abu Dhabi is opening a new marvellous dealership, and also in Dubai, they're investing heavily in a new showroom. So that also shows the confidence for the future of Rolls-Royce in the region and in the economy here. Otherwise, you wouldn't invest millions into showrooms."

Rolls-Royce has 83 dealerships around the world, including eight in the Middle East.

aligaya@thenational.ae