Luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce enjoys record sales

LONDON Mon Jan 9, 2012 4:36pm GMT

The Spirit of Ecstasy emblem on a Rolls-Royce Ghost is pictured during the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, September 14, 2011. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

The Spirit of Ecstasy emblem on a Rolls-Royce Ghost is pictured during the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, September 14, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Ralph Orlowski

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LONDON (Reuters) - Upmarket carmaker Rolls-Royce, owned by BMW (BMWG.DE), said it sold a record number of cars in 2011 benefiting from a surge in demand for luxury and bespoke cars from customers in emerging markets.

The 107-year-old company said it sold 3,538 cars in 2011, up 31 percent on the year before, as sales of its Phantom and Ghost models both rose, beating the previous record from 1978, a year boosted by sales of its classic Silver Shadow II model.

Rolls-Royce said strong sales growth was reported across the globe, with sales in the Asia Pacific region up 47 percent, North American sales rising 17 percent and Middle East sales up 23 percent. It also performed well in Britain, despite tough economic conditions, with sales up 30 percent.

Rival Aston Martin said in November it expected a quarter of its sales to come from the Asia Pacific region within two years.

Rolls-Royce's parent company BMW, the world's biggest maker of premium cars, on Monday posted record car sales for 2011 and forecast a boom in luxury cars would keep it ahead of rivals.

Volkswagen said last week that 2011 sales of luxury Bentley cars rose 37 percent to 7,003 after recording the brand's second highest sales volume ever in December.

India's Tata Motors (TAMO.BO) said in November that its luxury car business Jaguar Land Rover sold 13.8 percent more cars in the first half of its 2011-12 financial year than in the same period the previous year, buoyed by strong growth in China and Russia.

The value of automotive exports from Britain came close to an all-time high in 2010, and the latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows that the volume of vehicles exported from Britain rose almost 20 percent from October 2010 to October 2011. The automotive sector accounts for more than a tenth of Britain's total exports.

Rolls-Royce's biggest two markets were China and the United States. In continental Europe, Germany and Russia were the biggest growth markets, both doubling sales.

"We had an outstanding year in 2011, and we should take a moment to reflect on this Great British success story," Chief Executive Torsten Muller-Otvos said on Monday.

"Our business is in excellent shape. We are developing our dealer network, moving into new markets like South America, expanding our manufacturing operation in West Sussex to meet global demand and have plans to develop our product range."

Last September, Rolls-Royce said it planned to expand its manufacturing operating in Goodwood in the south of England, with over 1,000 staff employed on site.

Many of the cars produced at Goodwood have bespoke features such as unique paint colours, interior detailing and embroidery.

(Additional reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Will Waterman)

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