Rolls-Royce is going electric because it has to. Its CEO lays out his plan to make sure

Rolls-Royce Spectre electric sedan
  • Rolls-Royce plans to offer an all-electric lineup by 2030.
  • That means figuring out how to make EVs match its identity — and keep its buyers happy.
  • Its CEO says his clients are not looking backward and are ready for battery power.

Rolls-Royce is embarking on one of the largest endeavors in its 115-year history as it moves from gas-burning internal-combustion engines to an all-electric lineup, a goal it hopes to reach by 2030. But beyond developing new models and powertrains (with the help of BMW, of which it’s a wholly owned subsidiary), Rolls must reckon with a challenge that goes beyond engineering. 

It must figure out how to make tech-heavy electric vehicles match its identity — and get its customers to come along.

Lately, the venerated brand’s customer base has gotten younger. “In 2010, we had one model, and the average age of our client was 58,” CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös said. “Now, we have a range of products, and our average client age is 42.”

These clients are not looking backward, he said. They’re ready for battery power. “In our segment where a client has six, seven, eight, or nine cars in their garages, many of them already own an electric car — a Tesla or a Porsche Taycan — so it’s not new to them,” Müller-Ötvös said. He added that Rolls-Royce would educate buyers about EVs as needed. “But not in a way that we want to baptize customers to become fully electric. That’s not the point, because our customers are well-educated people,” he continued.

Of course, the brand — and thus its customers — has little choice as regulators around the globe plan bans on gas-burning cars to battle the climate crisis. 

“From an environmental point of view, they need it so as not to alienate their customer base,” said Michael Dean, a luxury-automotive research analyst from Bloomberg. “And from an investor perspective,” companies are getting valuation “only for electrification.” Dean mentioned Ferrari’s recent valuation struggles as evidence. “Investors are looking unfavorably on Ferrari because of a lack of a fuller electrification plan.” 

Rolls plans to make the shift to EVs “as effortless as possible,” Müller-Ötvös said, promising help in securing chargers and not ruling out the possibility of creating bespoke, custom chargers for clients. 

Because the first electric Rolls, the Spectre, won’t be around until late 2023, he said the brand also plans to “make waiting fun.” To keep its clients “excited worldwide,” Rolls intends to let its clients “see the car far earlier than the public sees the car in full flesh.”

Of key importance in making this profound shift to electric power will be bringing dealers on board, since they’re the ones who’ll sell and service these new vehicles. “Every carmaker discovers that selling their first EV is a lot harder than they blithely assume,” said John Voelcker, a writer and an analyst who specializes in EVs. “Find me your random luxury-vehicle salesperson who is conversant in local electrical-utility incentives, charging stations, charging-station types, and voltages. There’s just a lot of additional information.”

Müller-Ötvös promised that Rolls dealers would be prepared. “We have already told them what kind of investments we need, what is needed in terms of training,” he said. “And we will obviously train all the mechanics properly to be EV mechanics as well, at our headquarters in Goodwood and here in the States,” he said. 

If that doesn’t work, ultimatums might. “We even say, if you are not prepared, you are probably not any longer our long-term partner,” he said. “And they appreciate that it’s not only us making it future-proof for us. It’s also making their business future-proof.”

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