The Rolls-Royce boss revamps a legend at an electrifying pace


It is a truly electrifying time for RollsRoyce Motor Cars and its veteran CEO Torsten Müller-TV. The elegant Anglophile German, who is entrusted with a trove of British automotive crown jewels, has just announced record global sales and profits for the luxury carmaker. Its name alone is synonymous with excellence far beyond cars

The groundbreaking financial achievement now pouring into German parent company BMW comes at a critical time. Müller-Ö-tvös launches Rolls-Royce’s first production electric car – the sporty Specter Fastback. Deliveries are scheduled to begin later this year

It is arguably the most significant vehicle in the company’s history since the legendary Silver Ghost, whose endurance performance propelled the 119-year-old company to the pinnacle of automotive achievement in the early days. Specter marks the first step in an equally important transformation in which Rolls-Royce, whose cars still sport the famous flying Spirit of Ecstasy on their noses, will adapt to the Spirit of Electricity. By the end of 2030, all new Rolls-Royce models will be purely electric

Dream job: Torsten Müller-TV has been CEO of Rolls-Royce for 13 years

Dream job: Torsten Müller-TV has been CEO of Rolls-Royce for 13 years

Mueller-TV has been CEO for 13 years after his contract was extended beyond the age of 60, when board members at parent company BMW are normally required to step down

The 62-year-old hails Rolls-Royce’s performance last year as a “great British success story” and believes 2023 will be another strong year. But he emphasizes: “Sales are not our only measure of success: we are not a volume manufacturer and never will be.”

He’s thrived at a “dream job” and still pinches himself, he admits. After studying and doing military service, he joined the BMW Group in 1989 and rose to progressively higher positions in marketing, strategic planning and product management, including for Mini, before being appointed Head of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in 2010

BMW took control of Rolls-Royce in 1998 after an epic battle with Volkswagen. In the fallout, Volkswagen grabbed Bentley and the Crewe factory it shared with Rolls-Royce. BMW established its new purchase with a boutique facility in Goodwood, near Chichester, West Sussex – this month, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary

Both he and BMW are privileged ‘custodians’ of the marque, founded in 1904 at the Midland Hotel in Manchester by the Honorable Charles Rolls and engineering genius Sir Henry Royce, with what he believes an almost sacred duty of care

Mueller-TV hopes its own lasting legacy will be rejuvenating the Rolls-Royce brand to attract younger, more affluent customers: “We’ve modernized it over the last 13 years.” So much so that the average age of Rolls-Royce buyers has dropped from 57 to 43 during his tenure – “even younger than Mini now”.

Future-proofing the brand by being the first super-luxury brand to launch an electric car was another milestone, along with the ‘once unthinkable’ move to produce a Rolls-Royce SUV, the Cullinan, he says

The SUV accounts for 50 percent of sales, well ahead of the Ghost at 30 percent. Pre-orders for the new electric Specter, priced at around £350,000 and £500,000 with bespoke extras, have also exceeded ambitious expectations ahead of first deliveries from this autumn, he said. =

Keeping up with the times obviously works so far. Overall, Rolls-Royce celebrated its best-ever sales in 2022 with 6,021 cars, an increase of 8 per cent or 435 cars from the previous record of 5,586 in 2021. It is the first time sales have surpassed 6,000 in a single 12 -month have exceeded period

Super-rich clients who commission one-off bespoke and highly personalized luxury cars have helped increase sales and profitability. The bespoke orders included the second in a unique series of three ‘Boat Tail’ convertibles – rumored to have cost a staggering £20million each

‘Black Badge’ model variants – described by Rolls-Royce as his “more rebellious alter ego” – have also seen “extraordinary growth”. The Middle East, which accounts for 10 per cent of sales, is particularly strong for “highly bespoke” one-off commissions, so Rolls-Royce has opened its first “private office” outside of Goodwood for discreet VIP client advice, available by invitation only

More are to follow worldwide. Rolls-Royce’s largest market, America, accounted for 30 percent of sales last year, China 25 percent and Europe 20 percent

Rolls-Royce does not publish detailed accounts separately from German parent company BMW. However, industry experts believe the company is tied with Italy’s Ferrari as the most profitable car company in the world with an estimated return on investment of 50 percent. The company has an “unwavering focus” on profit, is all Müller-TV says. “Rest assured that BMW in Munich is very satisfied with our performance. We will definitely give them a record result this year.’

He says that means Rolls-Royce doesn’t need handouts from his parents. All investments in Rolls-Royce come from self-generated money and there is “no appetite” for a stock market listing. Passionate, serious and with a keen eye for detail, Müller-TV also exhibits a scathing sense of humor honed by his encounters with rabid Brits

‘I love it here. I will never leave the UK entirely. I’ll always come back with lots of great memories,” he says, recalling his career at BMW, where he helped rebuild Mini and was involved with Land Rover when Rover Group was part of BMW. He stresses that the success would not have been possible without ‘the extraordinary’ 2,500 employees at Goodwood who hand build the high-tech luxury vehicles have recently created 250 new jobs

Midas Touch: Rolls-Royce's new electric Spectre® marks the first step in a major transformation

Midas Touch: Rolls-Royce’s new electric Spectre® marks the first step in a major transformation

When it comes to the contrast between Anglo-German approaches to challenges, he says the British are great at thinking quickly and adapting, but are not the best planners. In contrast, Germans plan for every eventuality and often to excess, but can be completely thrown off balance if someone throws an unexpected wrench into the work

“I witness it very often. What I love about all our UK colleagues here, especially our craftsmen, is that they are perfect when it comes to sudden issues. They can solve things very quickly in unconventional ways,” he says

He adds: “I think this kind of pairing – typical German engineering at its best and the skills of British craftsmen here in the UK – is a perfect combination that makes Rolls-Royce so strong.”

I witnessed Rolls-Royce’s remarkable transformation with Müller TVs up close and even flew with him in a compact executive jet to the remote Swedish community of Arjeplog, on the edge of the frozen Arctic Circle, for an exclusive first drive there Ice and Snow on the passenger seat of a Specter prototype during cold weather testing. Soon I’ll be joining him again to ride the Specter for myself.

Time will prove that the electric evolution “was absolutely the right decision and that electric is the perfect drive for a Rolls-Royce,” he says

He admits: “I pinch myself. It is an honor to work for Rolls-Royce Motor Company. I also want to make our founding fathers proud – Sir Henry Royce and Charles Rolls. I’d like to think they agree.”

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