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[Herald Interview] S. Korea very lucrative market for Rolls-Royce: CEO

Luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce sold a record 5,152 cars globally in 2019, up 25 percent on-year. And the South Korean market was “instrumental” in this achievement with the growing popularity of its SUV Cullinan, a top executive said Jan. 7. 

“It has been an excellent year for our brand, and the South Korean market has seen tremendous growth -- very solid, robust and successful -- and is a market that is very important for our business,” Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, said in an exclusive phone interview with The Korea Herald. 

Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars (Rolls-Royce)
Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars (Rolls-Royce)

According to the 116-year-old British carmaker, sales in Korea grew 31 percent, higher than global performance of 25 percent, with 161 luxury cars sold here. 

In terms of sales in key global markets, North America remained on top, accounting for a third of total sales, followed by China and Europe. Other major markets included Russia, Singapore, Japan, Australia and Qatar. 

He attributed Koreans’ interest in Rolls-Royce to its first-ever sport utility vehicle -- Cullinan -- launched in 2018. 

“The success behind Cullinan comes from practicality,” he said, adding that for the first time, the Rolls-Royce was designed for use in daily life, including driving the kids to school.

Rolls-Royce’s luxury SUV Cullinan (Rolls-Royce)
Rolls-Royce’s luxury SUV Cullinan (Rolls-Royce)

Muller-Otvos also said the brand has been eyeing the growing number of young clients seeking luxury goods.

“The entire luxury industry is growing. For many of our young clients, the car is a means of luxury,” he said.

He added that as the young generation is keen to experience “something different, something truly unique,” luxury cars have become a way of expressing their own style. 

As for the automaker’s transition from combustion to EVs, Muller-Otvos said the project is in progress. 

“Last year, we announced that Rolls-Royce brand will go electric in stages, and we are on it. It will not happen overnight, but we decided that as a brand, to go electric is the right thing to do,” he said.

Regarding the persistent adverse market situation, which may threaten the global luxury market, Muller-Otvos said the company is watching the situation closely but is “cautiously optimistic” about achieving another good year with a sales volume similar to that of 2019. 

By Kim Da-sol (