As Rolls-Royce delivered its fourth straight annual sales record on Thursday, the head of the luxury British car maker had a few predictions for 2014 - less bling, greater demand for customization, and more women buyers.
The 110-year-old car maker, bought by Germany's BMW in 1998, sold 3,630 vehicles in 2013, up from 3,575 in 2012, driven largely by demand for personalised vehicles from the super-rich in Asia and the Middle East.
Sales in China jumped 11 percent last year to match those in the United States for the first time and the company is eying new markets this year including Myanmar. It is also looking at entering the sport-utility vehicle market but has not made a decision, its chief executive told Reuters.
Rolls Royce's bumper sales report came a day after Bentley Motors, another British luxury car brand now under the German ownership of Volkswagen, reported record sales for 2013.
Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes, chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, said that sales were strong globally in 2013 including in Germany, Japan, Qatar and Canada and were particularly good in the Middle East, rising 17 percent.
China and the United States now both accounted for 28 percent of its sales, while the Middle East snapped up 20 percent and Asia 10 percent.
However Mueller-Oetvoes did not expect Chinese sales to top the U.S. in 2014 as the car manufacturer was seeing strong American demand for its new model, the Wraith, which starts at about $285,000, with its order book full until mid-2014.
He expected another good year for Rolls-Royce - whose customized vehicles typify super-luxury - as long as forecasts for the global economy held true. But customers were becoming more discerning as "pure bling was no longer the criteria".
"People are a bit tired with luxury goods that all look the same and they want more individualization and customization," Mueller-Oetvoes said in an interview. "They want to sit down with our designers to make it their own car."
All Rolls-Royce's Phantom models were customized in 2013 as were 75 percent of its more compact Ghost models, he said. Buyers of the Wraith model were also requesting personal touches such as champagne fridges, family crests on headrests, and luggage to match the car leather.
One of the more unusual requests last year was to furnish a car with wood from the estate of the buyer while more owners were asking for 1,340 fibre optic lamps to be hand-woven into