Torsten Müller-Ötvös was trained early in mechanical lessons when his first car, an older model Austin Mini, had him examining the mechanics under the hood during a few roadside breakdowns.
Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, understands the technologies under the proverbial hood, how an engine works, and, suited to his role, is a self-professed compulsory “car nut.”
Since Müller-Ötvös took the helm at Rolls-Royce in 2010, the company has seen a 400 per cent increase in sales, and in 2018, it celebrated its best year of sales in its 115-year history.
The year saw some heavy investments in the Canadian market; Rolls-Royce opened its first stand-alone retail outlet in Canada in June, on Vancouver’s Burrard Street.
“Vancouver has seen quite an incredible surge when it comes to ultra-high net-worth individuals, and many people are driving this. The market has developed extremely well for us [over] the last three or four years,” Müller-Ötvös said at the time. “Canada has become a cornerstone of our North American strategy and a big part of the business.”
In December 2018, Rolls-Royce launched a surprising new product, the Cullinan, a new luxury SUV. This was a bold new move for Rolls-Royce – launching into the SUV market, which has been a challenge for other luxury brands, but according to Müller-Ötvös it was, in essence, a return to the brand’s history.
“It is, for us, quite a departure – a major departure from the brand. [But] one important thing many don’t know about, is when you look back in the history of Rolls-Royce, years ago, you see Lawrence of Arabia driving through Arabian deserts in an armoured silver Ghost – that was a Rolls-Royce.”
100 years ago, Rolls-Royce’s models were popular on the Maharaja desert terrain in India, and in the outbacks in Australia and South Africa.
The name Cullinan translates to “diamond in the rough,” and while the Canadian climate is far from that of the Arabian desert, Müller-Ötvös pointed out the rough, tough terrain is what the brand has been used to in its history.
“I think it’s been an even better fitting car for the Canadian market – it’s the right territory for a 4X4. Some places don’t have perfect roads, and for that reason it’s a perfect fit here [with] weather conditions.”
The Cullinan uses a double-wishbone front axle, is fitted with self-levelling air suspension and electronically controlled dampers front and rear. The SUV epitomizes luxury vehicle architecture, fitted with a stereo camera integrated into the front windscreen that scans the road ahead and adjusts the suspension proactively to optimize ride quality.
Müller-Ötvös said the company took their time on the project – six years, to be exact, and that order intake for the Cullinan is already “mind-boggling.” The first deliveries happened in late 2018.
“We took our time because our clear projection was, when we entered the market, we entered the market as the Rolls-Royce of SUV’s,” Müller-Ötvös said, adding that the Cullinan has an “old limousine” feel.
Maintaining traditional marketing models, Rolls-Royce eschewed the trend of virtual reality showcasing when introducing the model to market.
“We are true believers in showing the real thing,” Müller-Ötvös said. [With cars], you need to touch, to see, to smell, and feel.”