Eduardo Henkel
Director General
Rolls-Royce Mexico

Ultra-Luxury Brand Readies Electric Prototype

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 12:08

Reducing CO2 emissions is a long-term global goal across industries and the automotive sector takes a leading role. From hybrids to all-out electric vehicles, car companies are coming up with solutions to comply with stricter eco-friendly regulations and satisfy consumer expectations for cleaner rides. That includes the luxury segment, says Eduardo Henkel, Director General of Rolls-Royce Mexico.

Rolls-Royce, among the world’s most elite auto brands, is responding with a prototype that is 100 percent electric. “There will always be someone with an ecological mindset who wants an environmentally friendly model so the prototype is ready and waiting for that client. Designing in advance is the most logical, most sensible and the best way to do business,” Henkel says. The company’s environmental awareness extends to its Goodwood plant in England, where care is taken with surplus and 60 percent of its waste is recycled.

The electric initiative brings the brand full circle, having been one of the first companies to implement internal combustion engines. Rolls-Royce is no stranger to keeping pace with various advancements. BMW bought the Rolls-Royce brand in 1998 to combine German technological expertise with Rolls- Royce’s known quality. Henkel says the German technology brought improvements to the suspension, brakes and engine, while preserving the classic finishes and craftsmanship. “The company mixes tradition with advanced technology aimed at the most exclusive customers in an increasingly demanding and competitive market,” Henkel says.

In Mexico, the company’s goal is to provide safety without neglecting luxury. Rolls-Royce’s newest models are made of steel and although protective shielding can be incorporated more easily, it requires a lot of personalized product development. “Some details must be modified in vehicles to meet requests from the most exclusive customers, such as for armored cars. This was not possible with aluminum vehicle bodies, which makes it complicated for OEMs to cater to this request,” says Henkel. To arrive at the finished product is a long process: Henkel says it takes 17 days just to complete the interior.

The brand is targeting sales of 18 cars a year in Mexico, although it does not expect a big promotional push. “Rolls- Royce does not have to launch huge promotional campaigns because the brand is well-known; interested customers come to us to look for the vehicles,” says Henkel. Exclusive vehicle brands have a different marketing model to volume brands. Marketing strategies are distinct and brands need to differentiate less between models and more between individual units without making them ostentatious, he says. Models such as the Wraith or the Ghost are so popular that Henkel’s team does not promote their designs.

The company deliberately maintains small volumes, just 4,000 vehicles per year, to retain its aura of exclusivity. By comparison, Bentley’s factory manufactures more than 10,000 vehicles per year. Quality comes at a cost and shows in the details that include interior woods and leather. “In other countries, the Phantom enjoys the highest sales. In Mexico, buyers think that the Ghost is a suitably-sized car and prefer it,” says Henkel. Rolls-Royce describes the Ghost as a vehicle that encapsulates contemporary luxury, complemented by modern features and unique details such as a version with a 6.5L V12 engine.

Rolls-Royce’s global sales increased 6 percent in 2016 in comparison to 2015, according to a company report. During 2016, it announced sales of 4,011 cars, delivered to customers in more than 50 countries. This was the second- highest sales year since the brand was created. Six of the 4,011 were sold in Mexico.

In May 2017, Rolls-Royce introduced a one-off custom-built car called the Sweptail with a price tag near US$13 million, according to Business Insider. It was the most expensive new car ever built. Rolls-Royce reported that a customer contacted the company in 2013, asking for a unique car inspired by the luxury of the 1920s but also equipped with high technology. “Models like these are proof of the quality that the company can offer to satisfy customers, where luxury represents a certain lifestyle. This is tangible when someone drives any of the vehicles designed according to their personality,” Henkel says.