Rolls-Royce unveiled its first electric car – the Spectre – in October 2022, and now, 12 months later, the first models are arriving in the market.
The marque describes the new design as ushering in a bold new future for electric design, calling the vehicle “the world’s first ultra-luxury electric super coupé, [which is] a Rolls-Royce first and an electric car second [with] no concessions or compromises in terms of interior space, comfort, performance or ride quality.”
The Spectre is the start of an ambitious new era for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, which has committed to making its entire fleet of vehicles 100 per cent electric by the end of 2030. “This is the start of a bold new chapter for our marque, our extraordinary clients, and the luxury industry. For this reason, I believe Spectre is the most perfect product that Rolls-Royce has ever produced,” explains Torsten Müller-Ötvös, the CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. But this isn’t the first time the luxury automotive brand has envisioned an electric future for cars. In 1900, motoring pioneer The Honorable Charles Stewart Rolls made a bold prediction in a magazine article: “The electric car is perfectly noiseless and clean. There is no smell or vibration. They should become very useful when fixed charging stations can be arranged,” he declared. Those words, written four years before his historic first meeting with Sir Henry Royce, were to prove prophetic, but it was more than a century later that his vision was finally realised by the company they co-founded.
Today, Rolls’ vision has become a reality. “The Spectre possesses all the qualities that have secured the Rolls-Royce legend.” Müller-Ötvös said in a statement. This incredible motor car, conceived from the very beginning as our first fully electric model, is silent, powerful and demonstrates how perfectly Rolls-Royce is suited to electrification. Spectre’s all-electric powertrain will assure the marque’s sustained success and relevance while dramatically increasing the definition of each characteristic that makes a Rolls-Royce a Rolls-Royce.” He added.
A&E’s Editor-in-Chief was among the first to drive this historic innovation. Heading to Napa Valley, California to meet with the Rolls-Royce global team, we were given exclusive access to get behind the wheel of this monumental creation. At the stunning scenic location chosen for that experience, we sat down for a reflective and inspiring chat with the man who has spearheaded the development of Spectre, CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös.
If you look back at your journey with Rolls-Royce, what has been your proudest moment?
It’s tough to pick one particular moment as there have been many. If I look back to when I joined, I started to be proud when the first ideas came together, and I saw that we were on a good course to rejuvenate the brand. We have seen many significant milestones for the brand over the years – we have introduced Wraith, Dawn, Black Badge, and then later Cullinan – all I would call key milestones. We also brought back Coachbuild. But probably the most important moment is now with the launch of Spectre. Launching the very first electric Rolls-Royce in the brand’s history is a crowning point for me and my career. It’s an extraordinary moment. Our team have worked so hard to make this happen, making me unbelievably proud.
How challenging is it to remain number one and a global leader?
The pressure is constantly on your shoulders. I remember my first day in Goodwood. I stood in front of 800 people working for the brand at that time, and I felt the responsibility to get it right and to make sure that the founding fathers would be proud of what we were doing. I don’t think there is any set recipe for how we did it; we have done so many different things. The vision has always been to be more addressable, relaxed, and casual while still staying as top luxury. We needed to address younger clients and those shaping the image and the brand’s perception, such as influential and famous people around the world, etc. We now cater for almost 25 top celebrities, which has helped us get to the position we are in today. You should never rest on your laurels, and I always push to go further. There is no perfection; perfection is a dream.
What advice would you give to younger aspiring professionals in the industry?
First of all, you need to have a good strategy in your mind, and once you work this out (and it will take a lot of time), you need to stick to it and push it through. You might encounter many obstacles in your way, and you need to have a certain stubbornness and dedication. Once you believe in something, go for it, and don’t get distracted from your goal, no matter how difficult things might get. Once your strategy is great, you will always be on the right path. Throughout my career, I fought against so many obstacles – Black Badge faced some serious obstacles at the beginning when we conceived it, and we also had challenges with Cullinan initially – but persistence got us through. I must say, I like challenges, and the more complex the challenge, the more you celebrate once you achieve your goal. I believe you must take the time to celebrate your achievements. Otherwise, you can become too fixated on what isn’t working, and you can drive yourself into a negative mindset.
Is there anything that you would have done differently?
There is not much that I would have done differently. I’m very happy with how we have done it – not just me, but the entire team – and I’m very satisfied.
How do you balance carrying the legacy of the brand while remaining relevant today?
Heritage is obviously important, but you shouldn’t always emphasise on heritage; it shouldn’t be the guiding light. What is most important is the feedback you receive from clients, what they find important, what they find relevant in terms of global trends in the luxury industry, as well as looking at what is going to be the latest and greatest in three or four years from now, and how you can best engineer and develop it and create an experience for clients. You need to watch your roots, and whenever you do something important that impacts the brand, you need to keep heritage in the back of your mind and ask questions like, ‘will this fit with what we have done throughout history?’, I would never sacrifice certain principles of the brand for anything.
You once said that ‘luxury is rare’ – how do you think today’s consumer is translating luxury?
Rarity means that you don’t see a Rolls-Royce on every street corner, and even if you would, you need to make sure that the experience around what you offer is so great that it is something you only get when you buy a Rolls-Royce.
I’m convinced that you should never push volume. Anyone can do that; it’s easy – lower the price, and yes, you will sell more – but at Rolls-Royce, we have a very educated, successful client base, and we want to keep it that way. The value of what our clients are getting today is much more than what they received thirteen or fourteen years ago. Today, the brand has a wide array of bespoke offerings; the brand is seen as contemporary, cool, and highly relevant. You are buying into an experience that has taken the brand to a new level.
What is a message you would tell your younger self?
Firstly, be humble and stay true to yourself. Secondly, trust your gut feeling. There is a lot of decision-making that’s only based on rational considerations, and I think you should start listening to your gut whenever you are making an important decision. I think this is something you learn more with age, but I can really recommend trusting it.
Tell us about Rolls-Royce in the Middle East and why this market is important to you.
The Middle East is not only a region at the heart of Rolls-Royce, but also somewhere that’s close to my heart. My wife and I often travel to Middle Eastern destinations for personal trips because I think it has a beautiful culture of hospitality, friendship, and happiness, and I really cherish this.
As a brand, I feel, in a way we have a similar culture to that of the Middle East. The Middle East has always relied on means of transportation that are highly reliable and loved by the entire family. This dates back hundreds of years, horses were the only means of transport, but they became part of the family. In a strange way, I feel like families in the Middle East have that relationship with their cars today. I think this is why our Middle Eastern clients cherish bespoke, they appreciate eclectic colours, embroideries, and all of the personalisation we can do, and I believe all this is very fitting to Middle Eastern culture.
If you could use one phrase to describe where you see Rolls-Royce in ten years, what would it be?
Flying high on an electric cloud.