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Rolls-Royce – Edge of Desire

The powerful new Rolls-Royce Wraith has just driven into India, with a price tag of INR 4.6 crore

The powerful new Rolls-Royce Wraith has just driven into India, with a price tag of Rs 4.6 crore
There aren’t many cars that speak status as openly as a Rolls-Royce. In an era when many cars are sold annually in millions, Rolls-Royce sold 3,575 cars globally last year. And that was a record for the company! 

Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, the Wraith, much like a Bollywood star from a bygone era, emerged from behind a smokescreen at the brand showroom in Delhi, its first appearance in India recently. That Rolls-Royces aren’t for everyone is a given. Priced at Rs 4.6 crore in India, the Wraith is more expensive than the Rs 3.6 crore Ghost, touted as the volume car for the Goodwood, UK-based super luxury car brand. The top level model, Phantom, starts in India with a base price tag of Rs 6.1 crore, with the final price depending on the level of customisation required.

The Wraith is being positioned as the most powerful Rolls-Royce motor car ever made. The luxury four-seater, two door coupe 2,360 kg, 17.3 foot long vehicle is powered by a twin-turbo V12 engine coupled with an eight-speed automatic ZF transmission. The engine can generate 624 brake horse power and attain 0-100 km speed in 4.6 seconds. The Wraith debuts the most intelligent drive train ever to feature in a Rolls-Royce, including the application of ground-breaking technologies like Satellite Aided Transmission (SAT). This processes GPS data to predict the driver’s next move and automatically select the right gear for the road ahead.

Said to be ‘edgy’, the car is aimed at a younger buyer. The signature coach doors, the distinctive crest and a fastback design are combined with two tone presentation of diamond black lower and silver sand upper paint. Interiors measure up, though as in other Rolls’ the customer is free to customise as desired. There’s voice activation, and navigation requires no manual input, all part of the on-board valet system.

Design details like the expansive Canadel panelling, and blood orange needle tips for speedometer and power reserve gauge, hint further at agility, speed and performance. Look upwards, however, and Rolls-Royce presents something more traditional – at least for the 21st century. Starlight headliner – offered for the first time beyond the Phantom range – features thousands of tiny fibre optic lamps hand-woven by craftspeople into the roof lining.

It comes to India ahead of many other markets as the company sees India as one of its growth markets in the near future, economic slowdown notwithstanding. “We have seen an exceptional last year. We are confident of surpassing targets that the company has set. India continues to be one of the strongest markets and we expect the sales momentum to continue even this year,” said Mr Herfried Hasenoehrl, General Manager, Emerging Markets-Asia, Rolls-Royce Motor at the launch of the vehicle.

Mr Hasenoehrl is bullish about India, and says there is a need to be closer to the customer. While Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad have a showroom each, two more are opening this year in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad. About seven in total would be good number, he feels, which he also points out will make it the highest number for a country in south and south east Asia. Of course, there is no country the size or population of India in this region. Incidentally, in 2011, Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos had set an annual sales target of 100 cars for India, which Hasenoehrl feels can be met with more showrooms.

The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of German auto major BMW, declines to name how many cars it had sold in India since it came here five years ago. Though an intrinsically British brand oozing traditional values, of late China has emerged as the top market for it. India is now the third largest market for the company in Asia, excluding China. Yadur Kapur, whose Select Motors sells the brand in New Delhi, says the Wraith is sold out globally and that “the Wraith will change boundaries for Rolls-Royce”. He is confident about the market, observing that a cross section of Indians have been buying into the Rolls-Royce story.

India is being widely seen as one of the future growth areas for the luxury car segment, which had two per cent market share with 52,940 units sold in 2011-12 in India. The premium segment, led by German majors Mercedes, BMW and Audi, have held their own despite the downturn. While Tata Motors acquisition of British marquee brands Jaguar and Land Rover in 2007 made India a second home for the brands, advent of other supercar brands such as Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini have brought these brands much closer home. Aston Martin, and Fiat’s Italian brands Ferrari and Maserati, all opened showrooms in India in 2011.

The car is now on a three-month tour of major Indian cities as potential customers get a closer look. On order, delivery takes about three months, and the company expects the first ones to be on road around the end of the year. How many actually buy this ultimate status symbol, whether due to constrained budgets, or fear of the taxman, remains to be seen. But if you can afford it, a waft in the new Wraith will be an experience unlike any!

Suman Tarafdar is a journalist and writer based in Delhi. He has worked with a number of leading Indian media organisations, and writes on various aspects of luxury, lifestyle and culture. When not writing to earn a living, he likes to travel, read, cook, chat, shop and watch all kinds of soppy stuff on tv. Yes, current politics bothers him.