The New Luxury: Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce

"Silicon Valley has shown us its notion of the motorcar of the future, and it’s horrible..."

CEO, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

Torsten Müller-Ötvös has spent his entire career with the BMW Group, ​the parent company of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. He joined BMW in 1989 as a marketing project leader and slowly climbed the corporate ladder, reaching his current position six years ago.  —SHAUN TOLSON

Of course we are selling cars, but more important, we are selling luxury goods. To be truly luxurious, an item has to fulfill a number of important fundamentals: It should be unique, handcrafted, authentic, beautiful, and rare. Exclusive and personal are the two factors that drive luxury.    

Our customers are extraordinary people who live extraordinary lives. They are smart entrepreneurs, clever businesspeople, and connoisseurs of taste; and they are looking for deeper, more meaningful experiences with their brands of choice. When it comes to luxury goods, they want items that tell their own personal story. We encourage our customers to come to Goodwood [to the company’s headquarters] and sit with our designers, craftspeople, and engineers to create their own personal Rolls-Royce. In doing so, they have not shopped, they have commissioned. 

Through the introduction of the Ghost and then the Wraith over the last couple of years, we have extended our customer base to younger buyers. The average age of a Rolls-Royce customer dropped from 54 to 45 years old. Because of that, we are no longer a company that makes chauffeur-driven automobiles. We are now a brand for the luxury customer who wants to experience Rolls-Royce from behind the wheel. 

Today’s generation of young, self-empowered, self-confident entrepreneurs has asked us to build a Rolls-Royce that not only appeals to—and projects—their sensibilities but is fundamentally different. We accommodated them with a permanent bespoke series including the Ghost and Wraith called Black Badge [which debuted in March at the Geneva International Motor Show]. I like to think of Black Badge as the alter ego of Rolls-Royce: It is darker, more assertive, more confident and powerful, and more demanding. Its creation marks a truly transformative moment for our brand.

Silicon Valley has shown us its notion of the motorcar of the future, and it’s horrible: little, utilitarian, self-driving bubbles—the ultimate commoditization of personal mobility, dumbed down and, frankly, boring. The future of luxurious private transport cannot be shaped like a plastic cookie-cutter commodity. 

Our motorcars subtly deliver advanced technologies, such as infrared pedestrian- and animal-detection systems, heads-up display, and lane-departure warning, to name just a few. If or when our owners call for autonomous—or semiautonomous technology—we will be able to deliver. The future for Rolls-Royce automobiles rests in the demands of our customers. Our cars of the future will be what our customers want them to be.

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