CEO Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
What do you do before dinner while taking your 16-year-old daughter on a New York vacation? If you are the CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars you take time out to talk about cars, namely Rolls Royce and a record setting year. Torsten Muller-Otvos, a career BMWer, and the youngest ever to be appointed to the company’s Group Top Leadership, recently took a short detour to meet Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan at the Trump SoHo where they had the “Rolls Royce” of interviews.
ET: How many cars does Rolls-Royce make?
Torsten Muller-Otvos: Last year 3538 cars. This year our goal is to beat that number by at least one and have another record year for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
ET: So you aren’t being impacted by the gloomy financial news from around the globe?
Torsten Muller-Otvos: We are very much aware of the news. I would never say Rolls-Royce is completely immune but we haven’t seen doom and gloom. China may not be experiencing explosive growth any more, but the US has seen improvement in the first few months of this year. We continue to be cautiously confident about this year. Successful people continue to reward themselves with a Rolls-Royce for excellent achievements. Also, a Rolls-Royce motorcar is an excellent investment. We believe three quarters of all cars ever made (since 1904) are still around, and many are still driven regularly. In 2011 China overtook the U.S. as our largest market, but we may see it vice versa this year.
ET: Can you give us a profile of the Rolls-Royce customer?
Torsten Muller-Otvos: They are global citizens, particularly from the U.S., U.K., China, the Middle East, Europe, South East Asia, India and Russia and we have recently opened up in South America. Our customers come from stage and screen, Royalty, Heads of State, captains of industry, owners of companies – many are young entrepreneurs and ten percent are women. You can assume they are very affluent. Many customers have garages like wardrobes. Our competition is chalets in the Swiss Alps, jewelry, yachts and helicopters.
ET: Has the customer profile changed?
Torsten Muller-Otvos: the Rolls-Royce Ghost has brought us younger self-drivers. Median age is 40. Our brand is now seen as much more approachable. Out of 100 percent of Ghost customers 80 percent are new to Rolls Royce and Ghost accounts for around 75 percent of production. With the Ghost we have seen 10 percent female owners, and this is across Asia, the U.S. and Middle East.
ET: It’s getting more and more unusual to find executives who stay at one company their entire career?
Torsten Muller-Otvos: On one hand BMW is big company. On the other hand, I have always been fortunate to have projects that challenged me, from the re-launch of the MINI to heading worldwide marketing. Sure headhunters call me but I love BMW and I love cars.
ET: And when the opportunity came up as CEO of Rolls-Royce?
Torsten Muller-Otvos: I didn’t need to sleep over it.
ET: Any differences in the culture of Rolls-Royce compared to BMW?
Torsten Muller-Otvos: Everyone knows Rolls-Royce. It is the world’s number one luxury brand. Rolls-Royce is synonymous with excellence. People use the expression “the Rolls Royce of….” to indicate the very best. Our founders strived for perfection and that’s what we are doing every day. It is a philosophy – take what we have and make it even better – the best leather, the best wood. In each door there is a Teflon coated courtesy umbrella. I’ve never been with a company that is so minutely focused on excellence, and when you own a Rolls-Royce you become part of that amazing family. Thirty percent of all customers have been to visit us at The Home of Rolls-Royce at Goodwood in England. It’s a very personal business. It’s a one-to-one business.
ET: What are you bringing to Rolls-Royce from your BMW experience?
Torsten Muller-Otvos: I have a good feeling for building brand identity and to keep it sacred and undamaged. Goodwood is not a car plant – it’s a hall of artisanal craftsmanship and it is my job is to protect and grow this 108-year-old brand.
ET: Rolls-Royce is famous for allowing customers to customize their cars. Any good stories?
Torsten Muller-Otvos: It’s completely possible to bespoke your Rolls-Royce. The idea is that customers can do whatever they want to create a car that is as unique as their own fingerprint. One customer brought us part of his first pedal car he wanted incorporated into his Rolls-Royce. We’ve created a constellation of stars in the ceiling of the car using over 1,000 fiber optic cables.
ET: Any requests you’ve turned down?
Torsten Muller-Otvos: Taking the airbags out for a cigar humidor. We can’t compromise on safety
ET: How long does it take to build a Rolls-Royce?
Torsten Muller-Otvos: Four to seven months depending on what the customer specifies.
ET: What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Torsten Muller-Otvos: Sailing and fly-fishing.
ET: Do you have favorite hotels when you travel?
Torsten Muller-Otvos: I try always to stay with hotels that use Rolls-Royces as t heir courtesy vehicles.
ET: Anything most people don’t know about Rolls-Royce?
Torsten Muller-Otvos: Rolls-Royce built cars in the US from 1921 to 1931 in Springfield Massachusetts.