LONDON — They are rolling symbols of wealth and excess, starting at $263,000 a pop, with many buyers choosing custom options that can easily double the price. And they are more popular than ever before.
Rolls-Royce reported a startling rise in demand for their distinctive cars Tuesday.
The British-made cars, updated to reflect the technical know-how and marketing might of parent company BMW, have become must-haves for the new global elite. That group is growing in number even as much of the world struggles to get by in an era of low growth, low expectations and high unemployment.
The company said 1,968 cars were sold in the first half of this year compared to 1,475 in the same period last year.
The 33 percent rise in sales for the first six months of 2014 compared to the same period last year is explained not just by the cars’ plush leather seats and gleaming paintwork — those are standbys for the brand, which used to focus on the British aristocracy — but also by the rising number of billionaires worldwide.
A Forbes survey says there are 1,645 billionaires in the world, 219 more than a year ago.
“If you look at the number of ultrahigh net worth individuals around the world, that number is clearly growing,” said company spokesman Andrew Ball. “The luxury market is growing at the high end and we are delighted to be part of that.”
Mr. Ball said 70 percent of Rolls buyers are new to the brand, and roughly half choose to customize their cars by adding expensive personal touches. The cost of making a Rolls “bespoke” — the British term for custom-made suits — rather than “off the rack” can dwarf many household budgets.england - london - Europe - Western Europe - United Kingdom - Queen Elizabeth II - Parent Co - John Lennon - Matthew Knight