Rolls-Royce car sales hit new record
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has reported record sales for 2011, having sold 3,538 cars.
Sales at the BMW-owned luxury marque grew by 31% from the previous year, although the growth rate was weaker than in 2010 when sales jumped by 150%.
Rolls-Royce's £165,000 Ghost model, which is smaller and less ostentatious than the £235,000 Phantom models, has been the main driving force for sales.
Rolls chief Torsten Muller-Otvos said 2011 had been an "outstanding year".
Parent company BMW Group also recorded record sales for its BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce marques after sales rose 14.2% last year to 1,668,982 vehicles.
Rolls-Royce's strong performance last year was more than matched by rival ultra-luxury car company Bentley, which sold 7,003 cars during 2011, marking a 37% rise that returned it to pre-recession levels.Further expansion
Rolls-Royce said last year's sales were the highest in the marque's 107-year history, beating the previous record set in 1978 when 3,347 Rolls-Royce models were sold.
Rolls-Royce has seen sales more than treble since 2009, largely because it has been able to attract new customers who would not traditionally buy its cars.
The Ghost model, an ultra-luxurious alternative to parent company BMW's 7 Series flagship, has proved popular with younger customers as well as with women.
As such, the carmaker has adjusted to a new reality in which more people become very wealthy at a younger age and women are becoming increasingly prominent in the world of business.
Rolls-Royce has also responded to customers' desire for subtlety, given the prevailing downbeat economic mood.
Chief executive Torsten Muller-Otvos says he has seen a "shift from bling to substance".
At the time, the Bentley and Rolls-Royce marques were both parts of the same company.
The two brands went separate ways a decade ago, when the German automotive giant Volkswagen Group took over the Crewe factory in Cheshire, where Bentleys are still being produced.
BMW acquired the right to use the Rolls-Royce brand and built a brand new factory on the edge of the Earl of March's Goodwood estate in West Sussex where it started manufacturing new models.
That factory has been expanded in line with a broadening of the model line-up, which currently includes four Phantom models and one Ghost model.
The expansion is set to continue as the product range is developed further, Mr Muller-Otvos said.
Industry insiders predict that a convertible Ghost could hit the road in a couple of years.Global markets
The market for Rolls-Royce models grew particularly fast in Germany and Russia, where sales more than doubled last year.
Sales in the Asia Pacific region rose 47%. In the UK they were up 30%, while in the Middle East they rose 23%.
The US and Chinese markets are the most important ones for the company, though it has not released detailed figures about how many cars it sold in individual markets.
Looking ahead, the carmaker will further develop its global network of dealerships, and will enter new markets in South America, Mr Muller-Otvos said.
"We will see another record year for Rolls-Royce in 2012," said Mr Muller-Otvos.