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Hail the gas guzzler: Record sales at Rolls-Royce, buoyed by China

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Climate change? Recession? The luxury auto maker sold more cars last year than ever, beating a previous best from 1978. At 11 mpg, who can resist? Especially when they include a cigar humidor.

Climate change? Recession? Luxury car maker Rolls-Royce sold more models in 2011 than ever before in its 107-year history, beating a mark that had stood since 1978, and lifted in part by sales in China.

The German company said it delivered 3,538 of its Phantom and Ghost models, outdoing the 3,347 vehicles from 33 years earlier, when Rolls-Royce branded its car the Silver Shadow II.

"China and the United States were the most significant individual markets," BMW-owned Rolls-Royce said in a press release announcing 2011 unit sales, which were up 31 percent over 2010. It noted that the Asia Pacific region shot up by 47 percent, North America by 17 percent, and the Middle East by 23 percent. It did not report financial results.

The Ghost model, introduced last spring, accounted for the "lion's share" of the growth, and the Phantom also grew, Rolls-Royce said. The Ghost has a suggested retail price of $246,500 compared to the Phantom's $380,000. For the environmentally-conscious, it luxuriates through city streets at 13 miles per gallon, nearly 20 percent more eco-friendly than the Phantoms's 11 mpg, according to Motor Trend. On the highway, the Ghost weighs in at 20 mpg, and the Phantom at 18 mpg.

But such is the cost of personalized comfort. Rolls-Royce said that 2011 was also a record year for customization, as its factory - still in England - outfitted Ghosts and Phantoms with bespoke touches including champagne kits, picnic sets, and cigar humidors.

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Photos: Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce has also been trialing electric luxury:


Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure