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Rolls-Royce had a record year, powered by Cullinan SUV sales

Pras Subramanian

When you hear that an automaker sold just 5,152 cars total in 2019, you might think it was a pretty tough year. But when that automaker’s vehicles’ prices start in the low $300K price range, and escalate in amounts multiple to that, well then it’s a much different story. 

And that’s what luxury automaker Rolls-Royce Motor Cars (BMW.DE) did last year, selling a record 5,152 cars to customers in over 50 countries across the globe, representing a 25% jump from the previous high set in 2018.

Now 25% sales growth is not an insignificant figure when you consider how pricey these cars can be. It reflects the strength of the product offering balanced with the exclusivity that Rolls has cultivated over the years. Not surprisingly, in achieving these numbers Rolls-Royce reported sales growth in every one of its key global markets, led by North America (around a third of global sales), followed by China and Europe.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - JANUARY 10: A Rolls Royce Cullinan is displayed during the Vienna Autoshow, as part of Vienna Holiday Fair on January 10, 2019 in Vienna, Austria. The Vienna Autoshow will be held from January 10-13. (Photo by Manfred Schmid/Getty Images)

“While we celebrate these remarkable results, we are conscious of our key promise to our customers, to keep our brand rare and exclusive,” Rolls-Royce’s CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos said in a statement.

Key to that growth was the debut of one of its most important vehicles: the Cullinan SUV. This posh brute was the brand’s fastest-selling new model in its history, although not without some criticism leveled by a few critics, and some of Rolls’ more traditional fans. (You can check out my review of the Cullinan here.)

Rolls did take a page out of every luxury automaker’s playbook and came out with an SUV, and its looks are a little controversial, but the fact that a huge part of the company’s sales growth in 2019 is due to the Cullinan speaks for itself.

The new Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge car model is displayed at the stand of British carmaker during the press day of the Geneva Motor Show on March 2, 2016 in Geneva. / AFP / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

In addition to the Cullinan, another key component of growth for Rolls-Royce in the future will be its Black Badge line of vehicles. The brand recognizes the key to success is going after younger affluent buyers. The all-chrome looks and “magic-carpet ride” nature of traditional Rolls vehicles is not the millennials’ cup of tea, so designers replaced the shiny bits with black, onyx-like materials, stiffened the suspension and upped the power, giving these cars a more sporty look and feel. I have been told the average age of the Black Badge buyer is significantly lower than the traditional Rolls-Royce buyer.

Can Rolls keep up the sales growth and maintain that all-important exclusivity 2020? Check out the video above for our discussion with Rolls-Royce Motor Cars CEO Torsten Müller Ötvös, on what the automaker has planned for the future.


Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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