The Fresh, Young Face of Rolls-Royce: The Cullinan SUV

A shift in business strategy and a focus on younger generations of high-net-worth consumers has Rolls-Royce poised for even greater prosperity.

Near the end of World War I, British archaeologist and army officer T.E. Lawrence contributed to the uprising of Arab forces against the Ottoman Empire throughout the Middle East. During that period of conflict, Lawrence utilized a caravan of nine armored Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts. “A Rolls in the desert,” he said, “is above rubies.”

Much changed in the century that followed, but the most striking development—at least as it pertains to the revered British automaker—occurred exactly 100 years after Lawrence played a role in the Arab Revolt. In 2018, Rolls-Royce unveiled the Cullinan, the brand’s first sport utility vehicle.

An armored Silver Ghost may have been a ruby in 1918, but Rolls-Royce’s superlative SUV in 2018 is even more majestic. Could the British automaker have designed and debuted an SUV years before? Perhaps. But as Martin Fritsches, president of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars North America reveals, 10 years ago a young prospective Rolls-Royce customer could only get behind the wheel of a Phantom, an elegant and stately saloon that felt reserved for older generations.

The new Rolls-Royce Cullinan is the first SUV for the 100-year-old brand.

To address this issue, in 2009 Rolls-Royce introduced the Ghost, a streamlined full-size sedan. It followed that up with the Wraith—a two-door grand-touring coupe—in 2013 and an elegant convertible, the Dawn, in 2015. Two years later, the automaker introduced a more powerful and more assertively designed Ghost and Wraith, both adorned with a new moniker: Black Badge. Finally, the historic British automaker boasted a more diverse model lineup, and the stage was set for a sport utility vehicle.

“At the point of maturity where the brand is and where the different relevant markets are standing and the trends, it was the perfect timing,” Fritsches says, reflecting on Rolls-Royce’s introduction of the Cullinan.

The all-wheel-drive SUV, equipped with an all-wheel steering system, allows the brand to further its expansion into the northern stretches of the United States and Canada, regions where inclement winter weather has until now restricted Rolls-Royce vehicle sales. Yet, the brand is placing equal emphasis on new business strategies tailored to attract and satisfy younger generations of ultra-high-net-worth consumers. “We need to be more international and expand the brand to a younger, more global clientele,” Fritsches explains.

The Peninsula hotel in Beverly Hills offers exclusive opportunities and experiences for its guests to get inside and behind the wheel of Rolls-Royces.

Through new partnerships and associations with private jet companies, luxury resorts, and leading auction companies—not to mention sponsorships of upscale events across a broad spectrum of interests—Rolls-Royce is choosing to emphasize a lifestyle over a commodity. According to Fritsches, this shift of perspective, combined with the brand’s commitment to innovate by incorporating precious materials like gold and diamonds into its production methods, has Rolls-Royce positioned for even greater success in the years to come.