British luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce Motor Cars expects sales from Asia to account for 40% of its total by year-end. In an interview at his headquarters in Goodwood, England, CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös discusses his roadmap for the Asian region with Christine Tan of Managing Asia.
Q. India is now your second fastest-growing market in Asia after China, selling 80 cars last year. But with only 2 dealers there, how much catching up do you have to do?
I would say currently that people need to know our cars and for that reason, I definitely want to extend our dealer network. We are looking to adding two new dealers: one more in the north and one in the south. We are properly located in Delhi and Mumbai, and I think with four dealers at first glance should be enough.
Q. India's road infrastructure needs a lot of investment. Is that holding back the sort of sales you would like to see from India?
No, not really because what you are going to see on the other hand is that the overall car market is booming and you see a lot of investment into infrastructure in India. Earlier this year I was in Delhi, you see so many streets refurbished, perfectly done in the meantime. You also see the same in Mumbai and in all bigger cities. Then I am not worried that infrastructure is losing out in a way that we would lose potential sales volume, not at all.
Q. In China, the government is using all means to cool down the economy. Are you worried a slowdown there could hurt demand?
Currently, we don't see any indication that something is slowing down. But of course, you never know. As always in life, a crisis can hit you more or less overnight. For that reason, I am carefully looking at balancing our business on a proper international level.
Q. What do you mean by balancing?
Let's say your business is dependent by what happens in one country, then I need to make sure that the company is also prosperous without certain countries in the world where we might see crisis or whatever. We employ over 1000 people. For that reason, we are balancing out the western and eastern regions.
Q. China has already surpassed the U.K. in terms of sales. Is it only a matter of time before it overtakes the U.S. as your biggest market one day?
It is an interesting race and I am looking carefully into the race. We see a very close race between the North American market and the China market. Given the first half of the year, it's hard to say.
This interview is an excerpt from Managing Asia, CNBC's longest-running feature program. Catch the show this weekend at these times: 29 July, 5:30pm (SIN/HK), 30 July 7pm and 31 July, 7:30pm.