US overtakes China as Rolls Royce's number one market

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China was the number one market for Goodwood-based car maker Rolls Royce in 2011

China was the number one market for Goodwood-based car maker Rolls Royce in 2011

The US has overtaken China as the number one market for luxury car maker Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd., accounting for 30 percent of all models sold by the manufacturer, despite a sluggish American economy and countries struggling to come out of a recession, the company's CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes said.

"It was a close neck to neck race between the United States and China," Mueller-Oetvoes who has been chief executive of the company since March 2010, said in an interview with Arabian Business. "After the election was over in the US, you could see that confidence was back in the market and I was surprised. I must admit that we have seen some slowdown in the China market at the beginning of last year. Again after the government change happened there is new confidence back in the Chinese market."

China was the number one market for the Goodwood-based car maker in 2011 with the US in second place. Last year the company introduced a $1.2 million version of its popular Phantom model in red to celebrate the year of the dragon in China. The company sold out the limited edition model within two months.

The US economy is expected to grow between 2.3 to 3.0 percent this year, and 3.0 to 3.5 percent in 2014, the US Federal Reserve said last month. The world's largest economy grew at a 3.1 percent annual rate in the third quarter.  America's economy grew 2.2 percent in 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund. China, the world's second largest economy saw its economy slow last year to 7.8 percent from 9.2 percent in 2011. The Asian country's economy is projected to expand 8.2 percent this year, according to the IMF.

Goodwood-based Rolls-Royce Motor Cars sold 3,575 globally last year, a record in annual sales in the company's 108 history and for the third year in a row. The Middle East market grew 26 percent annually with highest demand for bespoke content coming from the region. The region was best performing market globally in 2012 with the dealerships in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, among the top five best selling dealers around the world. The region is Rolls Royce's fastest growing market and larger than Europe, accounting for 20 percent of what's paid into the company's overall portfolio.  

"We are not relying on one region only and for that reason we were able to overcompensate losses in certain countries of the world," said Mueller-Oetvoes. "For instance we have seen in some southern European markets a breakdown for us, some sluggish business due to the economy. But on the other side especially in the Middle East region we have seen fantastic business for us. On the one side that is due to an excellent performance of our dealer body down here but I must pay tribute here to the outstanding economic situation in Middle East markets which is fantastic."

Growth in Europe is expected to pick up by 0.2 percent this year after contracting 0.4 percent in 2012, according to IMF estimates. In the Middle East and North Africa, economic growth is projected to slow to 3.6 percent after expanding 5.3 percent in 2012.

Looking forward Mueller-Oetvoes expects 2013 to be another good year for the company as the company increases the number of dealerships around the world and looks to tap new markets in countries like Lebanon, Nigeria, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

"I am cautiously optimistic that we should see also again a positive year for RR worldwide," said Mueller-Oetvoes.

"I'm very optimistic about the Middle East market, looking at economic data and how the region developed over the last couple of years I would think that we should see the same happen again here in 2013 for us, one of our major region's of the world," he added. "The Middle East market is extremely important for our bespoke business. There is literally no car any longer sold here not being bespoked."

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