How would you describe the demand for luxury goods in the Middle East?
In the first half of 2012, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars sales witnessed a 22 per cent growth in sale with respect to a record 2011 year. Therefore, I can describe the demand for luxury goods in the region as robust as long as our brand is concerned, and other luxury market indicators mirror our performance, namely consumer confidence.
Has the Arab Spring changed the market?
At the beginning of these life-changing events, the overall atmosphere was that of extreme caution and worry. But as the situation and the sentiments started to settle into controlled transitions, confidence returned. For instance, the GCC market has seen an increase in consumption and consumer confidence mainly because of the measures taken to reinforce local markets, and also as capital migrated from troubled zones into the politically more stable Gulf.
What is business like now compared to before the financial crisis (before 2008)?
Thanks to Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’ lean business model, exclusive position and strategically sound operational decisions, we have been able to negate the effect of the financial crisis. The introduction of our smaller less formal Rolls-Royce, Ghost, played a major role in creating
a new market for us, as it brought new blood into our customer base, 80 per cent of Ghost owners are first time Rolls- Royce owners.
In your view, what is the outlook for the Middle East luxury market?
Our approach to 2012 has been one of cautious optimism, we are confident that we will meet our targets, as so far the general mood in the region has been one of increased spending despite the instabilities in some parts of the Middle East. However on the long run, we think that the upward trend will remain. The Gulf for instance, is witnessing a steady return of capital in addition to increased public spending and oil surplus, which have lead to a boost in consumption patterns, especially in the luxury market. These trends help us form a sustained outlook for the midterm.
Will GCC cities, like Dubai, become hotspots for luxury as other areas around the world cool down?
Dubai’s bet on tourism as a main draw has succeeded and in the process transformed the city into a luxury hub. Other cities in the GCC are following suit as they are the best equipped to offer similar high end infrastructure and services, especially after the latest changes in fiscal policies, increase in government spending which were boosted by the oil surplus throughout 2012. These changes have re-invigorated the entire economy, which is now recording unprecedented consumer confidence levels which lead to higher spending, especially in the high-end and luxury segments.
What types of customers are driving your sales in the GCC?
Since the introduction of the Ghost model in 2009, we’ve witnessed a new influx of customers into our showrooms. Younger than the established average age, fashionable, successful, most of them are captains of industries who want to reward themselves for their achievements and make a statement that only a Rolls-Royce will ever achieve. However, our more traditional customers are still out there, many have opted to add a Ghost to their existing Rolls- Royce collection, using it as the less formal mode of transport opposed to the Phantom’s timeless formal presence and chauffeured driven nature, but the updated Phantom Series II will surely appeal to many current owners and prospective buyers as it represents the best Rolls-Royce ever.
Do your products ever get given as corporate gifts? What’s the most expensive corporate gift you’ve seen given?
We have witnessed some of our cars being given as gifts by royalty or by successful corporations looking to reward their chairman or chief executive. Furthermore, a Rolls-Royce is considered to be a personal choice, made even more personal thanks to Bespoke, our own personalisation programme.