Opera of the Phantom: Rolls-Royce eyes the South India market for world's best car
The New Rolls-Royce Phantom has again been reinstated as ‘The best car in the world’,” announced Paul Harris, Asia Pacific Regional Director, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, at an official launch in Chennai last week. Innovations include the ‘Architecture of Luxury’, an all-aluminium spaceframe, and enhancements to produce a peerless ‘magic carpet ride’, as well as a ‘Gallery’ that allows owners to personalise art pieces.
A 6.75 litre twin-turbocharged V12 engine delivers an effortless 563hp and 900Nm of torque from just 1,700rpm, spiriting the New Phantom from 0-100km/h in a mere 5.4 seconds with the help of its 8-speed, satellite-aided transmission. There’s also a regal selection of materials, lending the impression of a luxury hotel ‘suite’ to the interiors, cocooned in the finest leathers and veneers — not to forget, with touch-sensitive door handles at hand.
The big draw yet is in the fact that each New Phantom will be bespoke, where customers get to choose from 44,000 exterior colours, and request personalised designs. In an email interview, Harris spoke about the company’s prospects in India.
What are the brand perceptions of Rolls-Royce in India, and what manner of associations are you looking to build here?
Rolls-Royce has a rich legacy in India — one cannot write about the history of India without mentioning Rolls-Royce and vice-versa. The marque of choice for Indian royalty, coach-built bodies were commissioned in the UK to suit the bespoke tastes of Indian customers. Hence, the brand and models like Ghost and Phantom are well-known, with famous examples like the Star of India, a unique 1934 Phantom named after the 563-carat sapphire from Sri Lanka, remaining a highlight from an illustrious past.
Of late, the perception has been one of the brand evolving with more contemporary design and technology — targeting a younger audience. With the New Rolls-Royce Phantom, the positioning is clear — it is the flagship model, resetting the benchmarks for the luxury scene in India.
The New Phantom is rare, highly bespoke and one of one. In terms of associations, the brand stands unique in its pinnacle position, with occasional partnerships selected carefully to ensure on par synergy.
Tell us a little about the importance of the market in South India, and the cities of Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kochi and Coimbatore, for Rolls-Royce to expand in.
Currently, with our partner, Kun Exclusive, we are satisfied to have an optimal number of dealerships in South India, located in Hyderabad and Chennai. We estimate that up to 25 per cent of India’s most successful individuals reside in South India, and we have seen their number increase across India by 290 per cent in the last decade.
Both Hyderabad and Bengaluru have seen a 15 per cent rise in successful individuals between 2015-2016 compared to Mumbai (12 per cent). Bengaluru, Kochi and Coimbatore are cities where there is strong Rolls-Royce interest.
Give us an insight into the thought process behind the pricing decision. What were the considerations, when you were conscious of the fact that this will be the most expensive car currently on sale in India?
Much of Phantom’s pricing comprises import duty — roughly, 214 per cent. There is no doubt that a New Phantom is in a pinnacle segment, as was its predecessor.
It is hand-built with up to 450 hours of craftsmanship and assembly alone at our Goodwood plant, in England. The materials are of the highest quality, crafted around a new ‘Architecture of Luxury’, with a spaceframe aluminium chassis that is 30 per cent more rigid than the previous model.
Technological highlights, too numerous to mention, include laser headlights sporting a 600 metre range, a comprehensive suite of driver assistance systems, safety technology, sheer attention to detail with 150kg of sound insulation in its body alone, and an advanced air suspension that works in tandem with ‘The Flag Bearer’, a camera system that reads the road ahead.
The car is all new — with engine, drivetrain, body and spaceframe chassis, all combined to make the New Phantom the quietest, most luxurious car in the world.
Tell us a little about the new art gallery feature. How does this idea fit within the Rolls-Royce lifestyle proposition?
The ‘Gallery’ is an uninterrupted application of glass across the front fascia that provides a unique opportunity to commission and present artwork, within a Rolls-Royce motor car. It is derived from an understanding that our patrons are increasingly becoming collectors of fine and contemporary art.
True luxury is personal, so through bespoke commissions, customers can choose an artist or designer to work with Rolls-Royce and create a truly individual work of art for their New Phantom.
How would you like to see the Rolls-Royce family of owners grow in India?
We are seeing a change in our demographic with younger customers, and a number of celebrities owning our cars. Our ownership profile in India, as in the rest of the world, is varied — with one common denominator: They are all highly successful individuals.
Our range is evolving with two-door models such as Dawn and Wraith, and in the future, a high-bodied car called Cullinan should interest young families and adventurous couples alike.
Will the New Phantom also be more accessible to women owners?
We already have a segment of our owners who are women: Outstandingly successful individuals, and this is true for India and the rest of the Asia Pacific region. This trend is growing, along with the rest of the world.
New Phantom (standard wheelbase) from INR 9.5 crore; extended wheelbase INR 11.35 crore. Pricing based on customer specifications, as all Phantoms are built bespoke.