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COVER STORY: Paul Harris, Rolls-Royce Regional Director of Asia Pacific
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altOn 17 April, Rolls-Royce opened their first showroom in Tianjin. It is the 13th showroom for Rolls-Royce in China. It is located in the Heping District and covers 366 square metres. At the opening event, the new Ghost model was revealed by Paul Harris, the Regional Director of Asia Pacific, and Jenny Zheng, the General Manager for Greater China. 
In the morning, the media were invited, and in the afternoon, customers were invited for this opening event. Many media arrived, and Business Tianjin appreciates the time given by Paul Harris to do this exclusive interview.

Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

Well, I am from the UK and I have a very long history with BMW with more than 25 years of experience within the company. I have had different positions, and I am what you would call a business generalist. I was the General Manager for the Nordic and Baltics area before I was appointed as the Regional Director of the Asia Pacific. The biggest change coming to this position has been dealing with the cultural differences when covering such a big and diverse area like the Asia Pacific. However, although some people might not think so given the size of the Nordic and Baltic area, it also contains big cultural differences, so this is not new to me.

I have been here for 2 years now, and I am living in Singapore with my wife and two young children. I spend a lot of time travelling with my job, probably around 70% of my time. I enjoy Singapore very much, but sometimes I miss the seasons that I am used to.

What kind of image or what words would you say describe the ‘Rolls-Royce Experience’?

From a customer perspective, I would say ‘Pure Excellence’. We work hard on fulfilling all customer demands and we make everything by order. We spend a lot of time listening to the customer and most customers get very engaged with the Rolls-Royce brand. From an internal perspective, I would say ‘Seek perfection in everything we do’. We are a highly dedicated team. Craftsmanship and engineering are some of the corner stones of our business.

China has overtaken the United States as Rolls-Royce’s number one market. Do you see that changing in the future?

I am not going to make any predictions, but my guess would be that the two markets will be developing similarly for some years, and then eventually China will be bigger simply due to the size of the market.

With a record number of automobiles sold in 2011, how will Rolls-Royce top that in 2012?

To us, it is all about sustainable growth. We do not expect to grow significantly this year, but we do plan for some growth in 2012, and will be pleased to reach that. We are not going to be a massive player in the market, and we are a rather small player today. We like to always have one more customer than we can produce for.

Some luxury brands are turning to SUV’s to continue their growth. Has Rolls-Royce considered entering the SUV market?

Never say never! The Rolls-Royce Ghost model is built in a way so that it is adaptable. However, an SUV would demand some compromises.

How long does a buyer have to wait to receive their vehicle in China?

Well, that all depends on the number of demands and wishes that the buyer has. At the moment, we have one customer with some very specific requests about the wood to be used for the interior design, and this customer will be waiting two years for his car. Most buyers have to wait 5-6 months for the Phantom model, and 3-4 months for the Ghost model.

Has the exit of Maybach from the luxury market had any effect on Rolls-Royce?

altComparing is very difficult. Rolls-Royce is in another league to other luxury cars, and Maybach was never that successful. When customers are considering a Rolls-Royce, it is often against the decisions to buy a yacht, a helicopter, or a jet. On the radio the other day, I heard a story about a very successful race horse, and the reporter called it ‘the Rolls-Royce of horses’. I believe, that says quite a bit.

With the lower price of the Ghost, do you see Bentley as a viable competitor?

I will refer to my answer before. To grow you need to change the product range and now buyers have more to choose from. Our market is the 200,000+ Euro excl. tax market.

Has Rolls-Royce considered manufacturing cars in China similar to other companies such as Mercedes Benz?

No. The UK is the only place in the world where we manufacture, and we will continue to do that, and are currently expanding capacity in the UK. This is our centre of core competence and we believe that this is the heritage that people buy into.

Have import policies, specifically taxes, hurt sales volumes in China?

Taxation varies a lot all over the world and also in the Asia Pacific, and we are a brand that operates in them all. We know it is there, we understand it, we deal with it, and we operate within the taxation rules that exist. This is also the case in China. High taxes makes the market become more exclusive.

Do you get asked for rides very often?

Yes, it happens. Personally I drive a Mini Cooper, and I enjoy the size and flexibility of the car. When I drive a Rolls-Royce it is for special occasions, but the Rolls-Royce is for my clients, not for me. However, if I could I would choose a Rolls-Royce and all my team feels like that, and we are truly dedicated to the brand. This is very much a brand driven by passion.
If you would like a ride, I actually arranged for you to have a ride in the Ghost model to see what it is all about.

…..It was all about a powerful machine, no noise, special features, beautiful interior, fantastic smell, and many iconic designs. Thank you, Paul Harris, for the experience

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