Thursday 10 January 2019 12:07 am

Luxury car maker Rolls-Royce achieves highest sales growth in 115-year history in 2018

Reporter at City A.M. covering City politics, transport and law. Get in touch:

Reporter at City A.M. covering City politics, transport and law. Get in touch:

Luxury car maker Rolls-Royce enjoyed a record-breaking year last year, as annual sales reached 4,107 cars – the highest in the marque's 115-year history.

The main driver of growth was the company's Phantom model, which chief executive Torsten Muller-Otvos called "flight on land, a magic carpet ride in its purest form".

Donald Trump-driven tax reforms in North America, the company's largest market, helped contribute to healthy consumer confidence in the region, which also helped boost sales, Otvos told City A.M.

"Worldwide we have seen a very good uptake in the North American market," he said. "The Americans were imbued with what I would call buoyant consumer sentiment, driven by Trump's tax reforms, low unemployment rates, and good business for many of our clients – 80 per cent of our clients are businessmen and business women running their own business. If business is good to them, they are in the mood to buy a Rolls-Royce."

Rolls-Royce confirmed that, like Aston Martin, it was preparing for a no-deal Brexit. It said it was expanding its technology and logistics centre in Bognor Regis, which stores its car parts.

It is also in talks with logistics providers to find alternative routes to the UK other than Dover and was mulling plans with BMW to fly in certain car parts if necessary. Suppliers have also been given intensive training on customs regulations.

When asked whether Rolls-Royce and rival luxury car maker McLaren – which also saw record growth last year – were buffered from the negative effects of Brexit, Otvos replied: "No, I wouldn't say so. We are not selling cars here, we are selling luxury goods. We are not in the car business.

"None of our clients needs a Rolls-Royce to go from A to B. They all have multiple cars in the garage. It is just for pure indulgence and rewarding yourself and having the pleasure of owning a unique luxury good. For that reason, it's a different business.

"But any uncertainty in the economy is not good for the business and in general for the luxury goods business, because, at least, 80 per cent of our clients are  all entrepreneurs running their own businesses, and if these businesses are put under pressure then you are probably not in the sentiment to buy a new Rolls-Royce."

Otvos said the BMW group had urged the government to avoid a no-deal or hard Brexit, which he admitted the company was not "immune" from. Ninety per cent of its products were exported and 90 per cent of its products came from outside of the UK.

"Every day 35 big trucks come in just for Rolls-Royce cars – they come just in time," he said. "Any disruption would immediately halt production."