New Rolls-Royce model to double sales
LONDON (Reuters) - British luxury car firm Rolls-Royce has received around 1,500 serious expressions of interest in its soon-to-be-launched 'Ghost' model -- a figure that would more than double the group's annual sales.
The company, owned by Germany's BMW, will not unveil the car until September, but has generated "overwhelmingly positive" feedback after touring the world with a prototype, Chief Executive Tom Purves told the Reuters Global Luxury Summit in London.
"Over 10,000 people have expressed some sort of interest, but at least 15 percent have expressed a genuine desire to own the vehicle," he said, defining serious interest as putting down a deposit.
The 'Ghost' will be sold alongside the company's existing 'Phantom' model, prompting the Sussex-based firm to increase capacity and hire more workers despite the worldwide slump in demand for vehicles.
Rolls Royce sold a record 1,200 'Phantom' vehicles in 2008, but Purves said he expected sales to be flat this year as the economic downturn bites.
"We are trading reasonably well, just not on the scale of last year," he said, adding that the luxury end of the car industry was typically late to enter recession and late coming out of it.
Rolls Royce was founded by Charles Rolls and Henry Royce over 100 years ago, but the car division was split from the UK-listed engine maker of the same name in 1971.
The car-maker was bought by BMW in 1998. The German firm also owns the Mini in the UK, and Purves said Rolls-Royce was delivering a profit to its loss-making parent.
"We expect to continue to make a (profitable) contribution," he said.
He added that in his view the economy had bottomed out.
"We are bumping along the bottom ... I do not see things getting any worse," he said, adding that of all the macro-economic factors to affect Rolls Royce the fortunes of commercial property had the most impact. Real estate tycoons are among the company's biggest customers.
(For summit blog: blogs.reuters.com/summits/)
(Reporting by John Bowker; Editing by Rupert Winchester and Erica Billingham)
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