Rolls-Royce glides in Asia despite financial turmoil

Thu Sep 18, 2008 6:19am EDT
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By Miral Fahmy

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Rolls-Royce oozes class and cash, and Asia's newly minted high-rollers are fuelling the luxury carmaker's growth despite global financial turmoil.

Since the start of this year, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, owned by the world's biggest premium carmaker BMW, has increased its showrooms in the Asia Pacific region by four to 17 -- or over 20 percent of its total global outlets -- and the region accounts for its biggest sales after the United States and the Middle East.

China, with its ranks of nouveau riche hungry for Western luxuries, is Rolls-Royce's biggest market in Asia and third biggest globally, registering sales growth of just over 50 percent last year.

"We're on track to achieve 30 percent more growth this year than last year in Asia Pacific," regional director Colin Kelly told Reuters hours before launching the new Phantom Coupe in Singapore as international financial markets went into meltdown, triggered by woes on Wall Street.

"We'd be naive to think that this won't make people stop and consider, but at the same time what we're not seeing is a dramatic downturn in the business anywhere," he added, referring to the global financial crisis.

Last year, Rolls-Royce sold some 200 cars out of the 1,010 globally to customers in the Asia-Pacific. After China, Japan is the biggest market, and India, with its booming economy and an appetite for luxury, is growing fast, Kelly said.

"Our customers are people who work hard and who want to reward themselves with something unique," he added.

"Some are people who always aspired to own a Rolls, and others are people who would never have considered it five years ago, but are now drawn to the cars."   Continued...

<p>A Rolls-Royce Phantom is displayed at a newly opened showroom in New Delhi September 12, 2008. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi</p>