Rolls-Royce will reach decision on adding SUV this year

Automaker posted best-ever annual sales in 2014

FRANKFURT (Bloomberg) -- Rolls-Royce Motor Cars will decide this year whether to follow rival Bentley into the ultraluxury SUV market, as the brand seeks to expand further after a five-year streak of sales records.

Rolls-Royce will unveil a new convertible planned for mid-2016 this year, and a final verdict on entering the SUV segment is set to be made as well, CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes said.

"We've made progress in evaluating options and in understanding better how such a project could work, what's needed to make it work if we decide to go ahead," he said.

Rolls-Royce delivered more vehicles in 2014 than ever before in its 111-year history, the England-based unit of BMW Group said today.

Global sales, which have more than quadrupled since 2009, gained 12 percent last year to 4,063 cars. The marque's fifth consecutive annual sales record was driven by the Wraith coupe, which was first introduced in 2013, and an updated version of the Ghost sedan.

In addition to buying an unprecedented number of cars, a record number of consumers opted for exclusive personalized features. Rolls-Royce said it sold more cars costing at least 200,000 euros ($238,000) last year than any other manufacturer. The U.S. remained the company's largest market in 2014, ahead of China, United Arab Emirates and the UK. The best-selling dealership last year was in Abu Dhabi.

Rolls-Royce opened six new sales outlets in 2014 including in Mexico City; Calgary, Canada; and Gold Coast, Australia. It now operates 127 dealerships across the globe and plans to add more outlets this year to expand further.

Falling ruble

In Russia, Rolls-Royce is preparing a price increase to counteract the effect of the dropping value of the ruble, Mueller-Oetvoes said. The company's two dealerships in Moscow received several orders from Russian customers seeking to invest in assets that keep their value as the ruble's slump accelerated, he said. "We were optimistic for Russia and saw a good development there," Mueller-Oetvoes said, citing strong demand, especially for the 327,000 euro Wraith. "But it's very difficult now to give an outlook."

Rolls-Royce deliveries are a small part of BMW's goal of selling more than 2 million cars this year. The brand faces increasing competition for the world's wealthiest consumers after Daimler's Mercedes-Benz brand revived the Maybach nameplate. Volkswagen Group's Bentley is also expanding, with plans to roll out the world's priciest SUV next year at about 180,000 euros.

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