BUSINESS INTERVIEW: CÉSAR HABIB, REGIONAL DIRECTOR – MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA, ROLLS-ROYCE MOTOR CARS
César Habib is the regional director of Rolls-Royce Middle East and Africa. He joined Rolls-Royce from BMW in 2015 as general manager of ownership services where he was responsible for global customer retention and developing service products with the objective of increasing brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.
Habib has been the regional director for Middle East and Africa since 2018 with a focus on performance and development of the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars brand in the region. In an interview with Muscat Daily, Habib talked about Rolls-Royce’s presence and clients in the Middle East and said the region is one of the strongest markets for Rolls-Royce bespoke vehicles.
Can you briefly tell us about the history of Middle East’s love affair with Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and how this market has developed over the years?
The region is one of the strongest markets for Rolls-Royce bespoke vehicles which demonstrates the love affair of our clients with Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
A decade ago, the product range consisted of chauffeur driven models targeted at specifically royals and presidents. But in more recent times, the brand has introduced newer and more forward-thinking models such as the Dawn, Wraith, Cullinan and Ghost. These have been really appealing to the younger market of high-net-worth individuals as well as female drivers and those who want to reward themselves with Bespoke commissions.
How important is the Middle East region in Rolls-Royce’s global markets? And how significant is Oman market within the region for you?
The Middle East is a very important market to Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. Every car that is ordered to the region has Bespoke features. No Rolls-Royce that arrives in the Middle East is the exact same as another model.
Rolls-Royce is a profitable company where the first quarter of 2021 was the best in the marque’s history. All markets contributed to this success and the Middle East, including Oman, is no exception.
Who are the main customers of Rolls-Royce cars in this region? Do you feel the younger generation is as loyal to the brand as the older generation?
Rolls-Royce clients are the leaders in their field, royalties and achievers, men and women who reward themselves for their success. The average age of Rolls-Royce clients is 43 and with growing demand and interest from the younger generation, the brand has taken steps to cater to that market. For example, Rolls-Royce launched the marque’s new visual identity in September last year, appealing to a younger generation.
Rolls-Royce is not about just selling cars, Rolls-Royce is a lifestyle, a journey and exceptional client experience that extends for decades, the relationship between Rolls-Royce and our clients is a personal relationship; we talk to them, we travel to them and listen carefully to their needs and wishes. This is loyalty, this is luxury that no other car manufacturer can offer to a client, the loyalty between Rolls-Royce and our clients is a mutual relationship.
What about new business growth versus existing client retention in the Middle East? Are the majority of your clients new to the brand?
There is now a good balance between new and current customers due to our exceptional model lineup throughout Phantom, Ghost, Wraith, Dawn and Cullinan, and not to forget the Collection cars. This range of choice maintains the desire for our clients to keep on adding to the garage, above and beyond their first Rolls-Royce.
How was the Rolls-Royce’s super-luxury model Cullinan received in the Middle East?
Rolls-Royce Cullinan and Black Badge Cullinan are both doing exceptionally well since they were launched in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The booking orders extend well into 2022.
How has been the past one year for your business in the Middle East? As the pandemic drags on, do you see a substantial regional growth this year and in the coming years?
It was certainly a new challenge, no one could have foreseen the pandemic nor the unprecedented times it brought with it, and the significant impact it had across all sectors.
The business was affected at the beginning, but we took the bold move in September 2020 to launch the new Rolls-Royce identity and the new Ghost, and it was a very successful move. Ghost as well as the rest of the marque’s models are doing considerably well with a healthy order bank extending into 2022.
As for growth in the coming years, usually we don’t speculate but I can confirm that we are doing well. Rolls-Royce is a profitable company and we have already achieved great results in the first quarter of this year; as a matter of fact, the last quarter was the most successful quarter in the marque’s history.
In recent years, have you seen any changes in consumer behaviour and attitudes towards Rolls-Royce cars in the Middle East?
The Middle East market has always been important and inspirational for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, in light of our clients who always strive to own the best and the most beautiful Rolls-Royce designs.
We noticed in recent years that the average age of our clients is getting younger and that more women are driving our cars which underlines our efforts to make our brand more appealing to the younger generation. It also reflects on our craftsmanship, designs, variety of colour and inspiration that are in line with their taste.
How do you see the future of Rolls-Royce cars globally? Do you see a major shift into electric and autonomous cars, for example?
I see the future of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars to be as bright and prosperous as its heritage. We have always been and will always be in a different league providing our clients with the best products, hand built at the Global Centre of Luxury Manufacturing Excellence in Goodwood, West Sussex.
In our recent global announcement on the hand-built masterpiece that is Boat Tail, our master artisans of Coachbuild, envisioned and crafted an entirely unique motor car, that honours its owner’s lifelong reverence for life at sea.
And yes, you will see a fully electric car coming out from Rolls-Royce Motor Cars plant in this decade.