Rolls-Royce CEO says high COVID-19 death rates led more people to buy expensive cars

Rolls-Royce CEO says high COVID-19 death rates led more people to buy expensive cars
Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce.Stuart McDill/Reuters
  • Rolls-Royce sold more cars in 2021 than in its entire 115 year history.
  • The luxury carmaker's CEO, Torsten Müller-Otvös, told The Financial Times COVID-19 death rates spurred sales.

Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Otvös said COVID-19 deaths helped spur record sales for the luxury carmaker in 2021.

"Quite a lot of people witnessed people in their community dying from Covid, that makes them think life can be short, and you'd better live now than postpone it to a later date," he told The Financial Times. "That also has helped [Rolls-Royce sales] quite massively."

Last year, Rolls-Royce sold a record 5,586 cars, Müller-Otvös told the publication. The sales were driven by the company's new Ghost model, as well as its Cullinan SUV. Both cars having starting prices over $300,000.

About 5.5 million people died from the coronavirus since the pandemic started. In 2021, COVID-19 deaths and infections tripled as compared to the previous year.

Several carmakers benefited from increased interest in luxury cars last year. Despite a global shortage of computer chips, luxury car sales hit an all-time record in the first quarter of 2021, as carmakers like Mercedes Benz and BMW sold over half a million vehicles, according to a report from Automotive News.


Luxury cars were not the only products that saw a surge in sales during the pandemic. Last month, Bain and Company and the Italian trade association Fondazione Altagamma released their annual global luxury market report and found that personal luxury good sales are set to beat their pre-pandemic record.

"The crisis marks a turning point for luxury as we knew it," the report said.

The group said that luxury sales of items like cars, personal goods, fine wines, and high-end furniture exceeded 2019 levels in 2021.

During the pandemic, the world's billionaires added $5.5 trillion in wealth, a 68% increase from 2019 levels, according to August data from Forbes.

As the world's wealthiest got richer, superyacht sales and luxury home sales surged. In October, The Los Angeles Times reported that yacht makers were running out of stock due to interest in superyachts, as boat sales in the US hit a 13-year high.


Luxury home sales also rose. Over 40 residential properties sold for over $50 million in the US, according to a report from Bloomberg. A luxury real-estate appraiser told the publication the surge was "unprecedented."

"We've never seen this kind of growth," Jonathan Miller, the CEO of Miller Samuel, a real estate appraising firm in Beverly Hills said.

Read more about Rolls-Royce's record sales at The Financial Times.