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Rolls-Royce’s SUV project inches closer on the horizon

Super-luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce knows how to play the waiting game. By about this time next year, the UK marque expects to have landed telling blows with its latest two model launches. In the process, it aims to reclaim some of the numbers lost from this region this year.

And there are reasons for the show of quiet confidence. The next model up for launch is what is now known as “Project Cullinan”, and in its full reveal will morph into Rolls’ first all-wheel drive. Or to put it even more plainly, the SUV. Whatever be the actual launch date, this is the must-watch event in the auto industry next year.

“Project Cullinan is definitely one for this region,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “People are already putting money on the ground to being among first ones to sit in Project Cullinan. And they haven’t seen anything beyond the camouflaged test models.

 We are sourcing from all over and continue to do so. A weaker pound is not an asset as importing parts becomes more expensive. It’s a zero balance game at the end of the day for us and we are not gaining any advantages.”

 – Torsten Müller-Ötvös | CEO at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

“We expect it and the Phantom (VII) we launched just recently will be enough to tackle the delicate and complicated market situation in the region. The Phantom definitely will have the full-year availability benefit in 2018.”

Any thoughts on the actual name Project Cullinan could take? Müller-Ötvös wasn’t in the mood to make any revelations, beyond letting on that a name would be found soon enough. And that many possibilities were being given serious thought. (A recent new-model introduction had the “Wraith” affixed to it, and there was the drophead that came out with the succinct “Dawn”.) The combined might of a Phantom and Project Cullinan should, at the very least, ensure a good run in this region. As for 2017, “The Middle East has been a sizeable deviation what the market had been three years ago,” said Müller-Ötvös. “This had been our second-biggest region for years right after the US. That’s changed this year in the light of oil prices and political unrest to a certain extent.

“We see different pockets (of sales activity); business in Dubai is good for us while other regions may not be as good.

“But China is making a strong return, and consistently so through this year. People are once again prepared to spend on high-end luxury. The US had been strong but currently not growing any further. Everybody can see what’s been happening with its auto market.

“I have said this earlier, we probably may not match last year’s numbers. Then again we also didn’t have the new Phantom model until mid this year and will have to wait until 2018 for full-year benefits.” (Last year, the carmaker sold just over 4,000 units worldwide, with the Dubai dealership among the best performing. The final tally was Rolls-Royce’s second best ever in its 113-year history.) The CEO declined to get into specifics on what sort of annual production run the SUV will have. “We have invested significant money at Goodwood (at its UK base) to build a system that gives us the utmost flexibility,” he added. “We are prepared to be as flexible as need be on Project Cullinan.

“I would go with the flow and decide (production) what the market tells us. The feedback to date has been excellent eve though people haven’t seen it, apart from the test models. We have now created the architecture of luxury on which all our cars are built upon. And that platform is capable of covering a full electric drivetrain … how we roll it out is not fully decided.”

The weak pound is of no help

“We are sourcing from all over and continue to do so. A weaker pound is not an asset as importing parts becomes more expensive. It’s a zero balance game at the end of the day for us and we are not gaining any advantages,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

Source: Gulf News

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