Autos

Rolls Royce's $400,000 SUV helps luxury carmaker set new sales record for 2019

Key Points
  • The company, a division of BMW, said it sold 5,152 cars last year, the most in its history.
  • That marked a 25% increase over the 4,107 vehicles it sold in 2018.
  • The main drive was the new Rolls-Royce Cullinan, a hulking giant of an SUV that starts at $330,000 but typically retails for over $400,000.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan at the Geneva International Motor Show 2019.
Martyn Lucy | Getty Images

Rolls-Royce had its best year ever in 2019, driven in large part by its 3-ton SUV that sells for over $400,000.

The company, a division of BMW, said it sold 5,152 cars last year, the most in its history and 25% more than the 4,107 vehicles it sold in 2018.

The main drive was the new Rolls-Royce Cullinan, a hulking giant of an SUV that starts at $330,000 but typically retails for over $400,000 with the usual add-ons and customizations.

Rolls-Royce — like many high-end car brands branching into SUVs — walks a delicate line between growing sales and keeping its brand special. The company said it expects sales to "stabilize" next year.

"While we celebrate these remarkable results, we are conscious of our key promise to our customers, to keep our brand rare and exclusive," said Rolls-Royce CEO, Torsten Muller-Otvos.

The biggest challenge for Rolls-Royce is keeping up with demand. The company said it is making "significant" investments in its Goodwood plant in England, hiring workers and recruiting a record number of people for its apprenticeship program.

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The company reported strong growth worldwide, with North America still its largest market, at about a third of its sales, followed by China and Europe. Russia, Singapore, Australia and Japan all reported record sales.

Since 2019 was the first full year of delivery for the Cullinan, the SUV drove the bulk of the sales growth, though the company doesn't break out exact model figures. While many critics and auto experts dismissed the Cullinan as too big, too expensive or too mass-market, it became the fastest-selling new model in Rolls-Royce's history.