DUBAI: Saudi Arabian car connoisseurs are buying the new Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV in their droves, according to record financial figures from the luxury car manufacturer.
Rolls-Royce, announced a 25 percent jump in sales across the world in 2019 to the highest level of sales in its 116 year history. But the increase in the Middle East was significantly higher at 29 percent.
Saudi Arabia is the second largest market in the region after the UAE, and Torsten Muller-Otvos, the global chief executive of Rolls-Royce, said that sales in the Gulf reflected the fact that regional economies were succeeding in their strategy of reducing dependence on the oil price.
“We saw it in the beginning that when oil prices slumped we also saw sales a bit weaker, due to the fact that the oil price fueled the economy of the entire Middle East. But now it is understood that oil cannot be the only driver of economics in these countries, and for that reason it’s normalizing.
“It’s a fact that oil prices are now lower, but people are getting used to it. Businessmen and women are getting accustomed to it. It’s the new normal and the entire luxury goods business is performing pretty well over last year,” he said.
The star of the 2019 performance was the luxury four-wheel-drive Cullinan, which sells for about SR1.8 million ($480,000) in its basic form, through most Rolls-Royce customers spend a lot more on customizing their vehicles through the Rolls-Royce “Bespoke” unit.
Muller-Otvos said that globally about 40 percent of the 2019 sales increase was due to the Cullinan, introduced just over a year ago, but the proportion was bigger in the Arabian Gulf region for the Cullinan.
“The Middle East is very strong on SUVs, and the Cullinan is a recipe for success there. Customers have told me that we have hit the nail on the head with the car,” he said.
The UAE — with high-selling dealerships in Dubai and Abu Dhabi — is the biggest market for Rolls-Royce in the Middle East, followed by Saudi Arabia, while Qatar and Kuwait compete for the third place.
The US remained the biggest global market in 2019, with about 30 percent of sales, followed by China with about 25 percent.
The Middle East market share was more than 10 percent of the global total.
The long-standing flagship of the Rolls-Royce range, the Phantom, was also in high demand in the region, he said. The ten-year-old Ghost is being replaced by a new version, which will be on the market toward the end of the year.
Muller-Otvos said that Rolls- Royce makes a “meaningful contribution” to BMW finances, and is funding a big investment program at its Goodwood, UK, base, to prepare for the advent of electric Rolls-Royce models in the coming decade as well as to increase its capacity in bespoke engineering and design.
He added that the average age of a Rolls-Royce buyer had fallen significantly over the past decade, down from 56 years to 43 years, as the marque increases its appeal to women and young high-net-worth individuals.