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Rolls-Royce grows an Indian heart

Last updated on: September 17, 2013 11:25 IST

Rolls-Royce grows an Indian heart

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T E Narasimhan & Sayantani Kar in Mumbai

One of the world’s first ultra-luxury brands is going strong for over 100 years and is even considering an India edition of its product.

Rolls-Royce Motors, the automobile arm of Rolls-Royce, and now owned by BMW, announced its designs on India on the back of a new launch.

The undisputed marque in super luxury cars, Rolls-Royce recently added a third brand to its existing line-up of the Phantom and the Ghost, called the Wraith, that will be sold from next month.

By 2014, it plans to launch an Indian edition Rolls-Royce based on either the Ghost or the Phantom, much like the special editions that China has seen.

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Image: Visitors look around Rolls-Royce's vintage car during the Rolls-Royce's Concours d'Elegance event for celebrating its 10 years of business in China.
Photographs: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

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Rolls-Royce grows an Indian heart

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But compared to China, India is still a small market for the company.

However, for cars that start from Rs 4 crore (Rs 40 million), Rolls-Royce is on course to achieve the Rs 100-crore (Rs 1 billion) sales target this calendar year, unfazed by the beleaguered auto industry.

Herfried Hasenoehrl, general manager, emerging markets -- Asia had said earlier, “We continue to remain on course to achieving our sales targets in India.”

While Rolls-Royce does not usually give out numbers, it has been reported to have sold 250 cars since its official Indian entry in 2005.

Aston Martin, another ultra-luxe and coveted competitor has been selling over 30 units a year.

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Image: The radiator mascot, the so-called Spirit of Ecstasy or Emily, of a 2012 Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe is pictured in Zurich.
Photographs: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

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Rolls-Royce grows an Indian heart

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The ratio of sale of the Rolls-Royce’s Phantom, priced above Rs 6 crore (Rs 60 million) to the lower-priced Ghost (Rs 4.3 crore or Rs 43 million) is one to four.

The sporty two-door Wraith coupe is built to appeal to owner-drivers rather than be used as a chauffeur-driven ride.

The Ghost’s 6.6 litre engine that churns out 246 bhp is topped with an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox that arms the Wraith with acceleration fit for an enthusiast.

Packed with a starry-night roof and the ‘magic carpet ride’ air suspension, the car at Rs 4.6 crore (Rs 46 million) has room for customisation like its other two cousins.

In true luxury-marketing style, Rolls-Royce invites customers to participate in the bespoke journey before their car’s delivery.

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Image: Rolls-Royce Phantom interior.
Photographs: Courtesy, Rolls-Royce

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Rolls-Royce grows an Indian heart

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Hasenoehrl says except for painting, the cars are literally built by hands.

Designers take a considerable amount of time with each client to discover what they want and they have been known to pick from 44,000 shades for the interiors, monograms or logos on the headrest or tread plates etc.

Hasenoehrl says, “The whole idea is when she enters the car, she should feel that it is her car and has her signature,” says Hasenoehrl.

The numbers in India have made it drive deeper into the market, betraying that it has been finding modern custom beyond that of the maharajas.

Hasenoehrl says India is the ‘most’ important market for the company in Asia.

A report quoting Freedom at Midnight, by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre stated that on an average, each maharaja in India had more than three Rolls-Royce automobiles.

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Image: A Rolls-Royce Wraith automobile is on display during the opening ceremony of a new Rolls-Royce showroom in St. Petersburg.
Photographs: Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters

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Rolls-Royce grows an Indian heart

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Hasenoehrl says, “Indian customers in the last eight years have got what the brand is all about.

“They understand it is not only luxury or a status symbol but could be made to represent who they are.

“We have uncompromisingly maintained a clear identity of precision and finesse.” Hasenoehrl is betting big on India’s number of successful entrepreneurs, both existing and potential -- the new kings with financial clout.

The company is willing to look beyond the metros, with its number of dealers being the highest in south and southeast Asia.

The company has one dealership each in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh) and the latest in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), and will open one in Chandigarh.

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Image: Employee Darren Lowarson give a Rolls Royce Ghost its final finish polish at the Rolls Royce Motor Cars factory at Goodwood near Chichester in southern England.
Photographs: Luke MacGregor/Reuters

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Rolls-Royce grows an Indian heart

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“Two new sales and services centres in one year alone is a very strong statement for a brand like Rolls-Royce.

“What is tier II, III and IV today, in two more years, will be cities we need to be in,” says Hasenoehrl.

Hasenoehrl adds that the purported India edition is “one of the interesting projects.

“We are working on it, since it needs to meet lot of diversified customer expectations across the country.

“We may launch the India edition in 2014, but earlier the better."

The car would either be on the Phantom or the Ghost platform, says a company official. The company is yet to close in on a cultural symbol that can be adopted a la the ‘Year of the Dragon’ Phantom edition in 2012 for China.

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Image: The mascot, the so-called Spirit of Ecstasy or Emily, is seen on a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II automobile at the Continental Automobile dealership in Villeneuve sur Lot, Southwestern France.
Photographs: Regis Duvignau/Reuters

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However, the rupee depreciation cloud has cast a shadow over the brand which has customers pay nearly 175 per cent of the cost in import duties, according to Venkatesh Krishanan, CEO, Kun Exclusive, a dealer for Rolls-Royce.

He says some of its customers are postponing their decisions as the cars are costlier by around Rs 700,000-10 lakh (Rs 1 million).

The spirit of RR

  • Around 225 of maharajas had between them at least 788 Rolls-Royce cars.
  • For modern ultra-luxury buyers, the Phantom ranges from Rs 6.5 crore (Rs 65 million) to Rs 7.6 crore (Rs 76 million), the Ghost starts from Rs 4.3 crore (Rs 43 million) and the Wraith from Rs 4.6 crore (Rs 46 million)
  • Rolls-Royce was conceived over lunch by Claude Johnson, engineer Henry Royce and car-dealer Charles Rolls in 1904. By 1907, the first Silver Ghost was rolled out

Image: A boy walks past vintage Rolls-Royce cars during the 20-Ghost Club Nordic and Baltic tour in Riga.
Photographs: Ints Kalnins/Reuters

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