2021 has been an exceptional year for Rolls-Royce. What are your thoughts about the record-breaking year?
I am quite pleased that 2021 was an outstanding record year for Rolls-Royce. I wouldn’t have considered it to be at the beginning due to the pandemic. But we witnessed unseen levels of order intake in 2021. If you order a Rolls-Royce today, you will expect to take delivery of it about a year from now. People accumulated wealth due to various reasons – lack of travel, stock markets, their own businesses doing well… This has led the luxury business industry to thrive. It is not just who took in record orders but also luxury watches, jewellery, fashion, and other industries that have done well.
Please tell us about the long-standing relationship Rolls-Royce has had with the Middle East.
We have long-lasting relationships with families, sheikhs, and sheikhas. It makes the business extremely valuable for us because these relationships are an important cornerstone for Rolls-Royce. Around 10 percent of our worldwide business is from the Middle Eastern markets. Oman plays a very good role in this.
I personally like the Middle Eastern culture, the people, and the way business is conducted here. The bespoke orders that come from the region are unbelievably creative. There are interesting stories built around commissioned cars by our clients from here. I can usually tell when a car commissioned from the Middle East comes down the production line by the colour combination, the eclectic interior design, and the detailing that goes into each Rolls-Royce.
Rolls-Royce’s first electric car, Spectre, is grabbing eyeballs everywhere, and rightly so. Tell us about Rolls-Royce’s plans to go electric.
We took the decision to go electric a couple of years ago. We decided that the brand will be completely electrified by 2030 through the entire portfolio of our cars; it will be the last year we sell commercial engine vehicles. The decision was taken for many reasons: sustainability being the foremost; our younger clients are particularly in favour of electric cars, and electric fits perfectly with the brand. It’s silent, very powerful, the waftability aspect of our cars is also enhanced through an electric engine. I am very confident that Spectre, our very first electric two-door car that comes into the market end of 2023 will be a very successful car.
The iconic Spirit of Ecstasy went through a redesign recently. What prompted the design modification?
Spectre is the most aerodynamic car we have ever conceived. The Spirit of Ecstasy didn’t fit in its entirety with the design and characteristic of the car. We felt it might be great if the Spirit of Ecstasy kneels slightly down get to flow with the shape of the Spectre. While it is a subtle redesign, the Spirit of Ecstasy looks dynamic. The design is quite marvellous. Her face is more precise, her hair is flowing… we took our time to get the results we wanted. We worked on the redesign for two years.
When we conceived Spectre, we felt the Spirit of Ecstasy needed to have a new chapter. To electrify the Spirit of Ecstasy.
Over the years, how much change has there been in the demographics of the Rolls-Royce clientele?
The average age of our clients now is 43. It tells you what kind of clientele we have behind the wheel. I say behind the wheel intentionally as the brand has moved from being chauffeur-driven to self-driven. Our profile has changed. We have more women as clients; around 15 percent worldwide. Our clients now include entrepreneurs, and business owners, many of whom are self-made. About 20 percent of our clientele are celebrities.
New demographics demand new changes. Which brings us to Black Badge, the edgier and cooler persona of Rolls-Royce…
I refer to the Black Badge as the alter ego of Rolls-Royce; with a darker and menacing soul. In the beginning, it resonated well with clients in the West Coast of the USA, but it spread all over the world. People understood the idea of an edgier, cooler side of Rolls-Royce; created for the rebels and the risk-takers. We thought about 10-15 percent of clients would go for the Black Badge. Now we are between 30-40 percent. This was also extremely important for the brand to position as a far younger, cooler brand; it also made us relevant among the celebrities we have as clients.
Black Badge will go electric, a perfect fit with the persona. Black Badge is rawer and adds edginess to the drive. These aspects can be easily moved into an electric vehicle. Black Badge cars used to be black, even triple blacks, but now we are getting more bold colour commissions. Sporty, edgy exterior colour combinations and strong, eclectic interiors are becoming popular.
In my view, the Black Badge Ghost is the best Black Badge car we have conceived. It is my favourite so far and the way it drives is unbelievable.
Has Rolls-Royce considered entering the Metaverse?
We are currently looking into it. We might enter the Metaverse in a virtual way. We have experimented with NFTs during the Black Badge Ghost launch. I personally like the idea – to be part of the metaverse one day. It still needs to grow a bit more, on levels for us to want to enter. So, yes, you might see Rolls-Royce in the Metaverse one day.
The brand made headlines recently with the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail. What was the process that went into the creation of the iconic car?
The Rolls-Royce Coachbuild Boat Tail is a project close to my heart. It is the most expensive car built in the history of the automotive industry. The car was created by the client, we built it for him. We worked with this client for over four years on this exceptional piece. The client was involved in the entire design process from beginning to end. Only the best materials were allowed to go into the making of this car.
We received three commissions for the Boat Tail. We do a commission every other year.
Rolls-Royce has created what is known as ‘the most exclusive club’. Please tell us about Whispers.
Whispers is the most exclusive members club in the world. It is a mobile application created for Rolls-Royce clientsaround the world. You need to own a Rolls-Royce to be part of Whispers. All our clients are connected via the application, which offers concierge services, access to exclusive events, and services that are truly unique as well as exclusive.
What does luxury mean to you?
Luxury is something you do for your soul. Something that is rare, even eclectic. It need not be material. For me, luxury is more immaterial. To spend time with my wife, to read a book, to be able to spend a week in Oman…that’s luxury for me.
Obviously, even Rolls-Royce denotes luxury to me. I like to drive, feel, and sit in a Rolls-Royce. That’s the material aspect of luxury I love.