March 1, 2016 / 1:34 PM / 2 years ago

Rolls-Royce cars CEO seeks younger customers via social media

GENEVA (Reuters) - Rolls-Royce customers are getting younger, Chief Executive Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes says, as the luxury carmaker embraces YouTube and Instagram and prepares to replace its aging flagship, the Phantom.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Chief Executive Officer, Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes, is reflected in the rear of a Rolls-Royce Phantom as he poses for a photograph at a showroom in Singapore October 8, 2013. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Since 2013, the BMW-owned BMWG.DE British brand has introduced the Wraith Coupe, Ghost II limousine and now the Dawn convertible to appeal to customers who would rather take the wheel themselves than rely on a chauffeur.

Last month it announced - on Twitter - that the current Phantom, up to 6 meters (19 feet, 8 inches) long and selling for more than 300,000 pounds ($419,000), would enter the last stages of production in 2016. The company is moving to all-aluminum architecture in every vehicle sold from early 2018.

“In 2009 the average age of our drivers was 55, now it is 45,” Mueller-Oetvoes said in an interview on Tuesday at the Geneva Motor Show, adding that deliveries of the Dawn are due to start in the second quarter of this year.

Rolls has marketed the new cars via social media like Instagram, where it now boasts over a million followers. For the first time, the brand is emphasizing outright performance rather than style and discretion, in a bid to attract customers who want sporty driving features.

“The cars have more horsepower and more torque,” Moeller-Oetvoes said. Rolls-Royce is also working on an offroader, which will be built at its Goodwood plant in England and enter the market around 2018, he said.

The higher ground clearance of SUVs has proven particularly popular in Russia, China, Brazil, Malaysia, India and other emerging markets with bad roads.

The addition of new models like the Dawn convertible aims to boost flagging sales numbers. Rolls-Royce sold 3,785 hand-built cars last year, down from a record 4,063 sold in 2014, in part because of a 54 percent drop on sales in China.

“This is a cyclical thing and will normalize,” Mueller-Oetvoes said.

($1 = 0.7154 pounds)

Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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