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Rolls-Royce aims to widen appeal with new convertible

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 - 21:18
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Luxury British carmaker Rolls-Royce Motors launched a new convertible model on Tuesday, aiming to increase its appeal to women and younger drivers amid declining sales in China.

[LONDON] Luxury British carmaker Rolls-Royce Motors launched a new convertible model on Tuesday, aiming to increase its appeal to women and younger drivers amid declining sales in China.

BMW-owned Rolls-Royce has, like most carmakers, been hit by a slowdown in the world's largest car market, with global sales volumes down 10 percent in the first seven months of the year.

Chinese sales could end the year down as much as 15 percent, the board member responsible for the brand said in June, in contrast to the record 4,063 models the brand delivered last year as it saw the fruits of a strategy to broaden its appeal.

Rolls-Royce has spent several years trying to branch out from its core market of older men who traditionally buy 200,000 pound-plus (US$305,080) cars to be driven by a chauffeur.

Director of Design Giles Taylor told Reuters the "Dawn"convertible would help to bring new customers to the 111-year old brand who have a more modern approach to car ownership.

"It's a driver's car and we believe that we are reaching out to customers that may have perceived a level of opulence and formality with previous Rolls-Royces," he said. "It is about connecting to younger aspirations."

On Tuesday, the firm also broke with tradition by launching the vehicle during an online event, rather than at the formal setting of the Frankfurt Motor Show, where the model will be showcased next week.

Rolls-Royce, bought by Germany's BMW in 1998, said it had already received several hundred orders for the car but did not give details on the selling price.

It hopes the new model will help to overcome a decline in popularity of existing ones, which include the two-door coupe Wraith, after Rolls-Royce sales tumbled 10.3 per cent to 2,035 cars in the year to July.

High-end brands have suffered in recent months due to the slowdown in China, the world's second-largest economy, which has also seen its stock market plunge, a currency devaluation and a government crackdown on conspicuous consumption.

Despite challenges, Rolls-Royce is confident the new model, which it said was the quietest convertible in the world, will appeal to Chinese buyers and draw in customers from outside its core base of men, currently about 70 per cent of buyers.

"I think the sensuality of the car will attract probably more women than with the Wraith which hopefully stands us in good stead," Mr Taylor said.

REUTERS