Rolls-Royce boss says COVID deaths were good for business

The prospect of dying unexpectedly from COVID-19 can concentrate the mind wonderfully — on buying an expensive car.

That’s according to Rolls-Royce chief executive Torsten Müller-Otvös, who said the luxury automaker sold more cars last year than it did during any other year in its 117-year history.

Müller-Otvös told the Financial Times he believes Rolls-Royce rolled to its record because the pandemic got people to realize that “life can be short.”

“Quite a lot of people witnessed people in their community dying from COVID, that makes them think life can be short, and you’d better live now than postpone it to a later date,” he said.

“That also has helped [Rolls-Royce sales] quite massively.”

According to the FT, the British luxury automaker sold 5,586 units last year — a 49% increase of overall sales from 2020.

For car companies that cater to the mass consumer, that number would be paltry. But Rolls-Royce caters to a clientele that can shell out $455,000 for a Phantom.

Müller-Otvös said other company data also supports his theory. The average age of customers dropped to 43 last year. It was as high as 53 just a few years ago.

Rolls-Royce sold nearly 50% more cars in 2021 than it did in the previous year.
Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The drop in average age means that “for every 60-year-old, you need a client who is 20,” the CEO said.

Müller-Otvös said sales were brisk in China, the Western Hemisphere, Europe and the Middle East. The company also performed well in South Korea and Russia, he said.

Rolls-Royce also wasn’t impacted by the shortage in chips that hampered other automobile manufacturers.

Other luxury carmakers also flourished during the pandemic. Bentley sold a record 14,659 cars and SUVs last year — a 31% increase from the year before. Lamborghini sold 2,472 cars in the United States last year — an 11% jump from 2020.

“This year is already higher than the best year ever,” Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann said in December.

Bentley and Lamborghini are both owned by Volkswagen.

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