When Rolls-Royce Motor Cars unveiled its first-ever SUV in the Americas last month, it chose Vancouver, in Canada.

On day one, it sold six, which start at C$399,000 (US$308,000) each – not bad for a bespoke brand that delivered just 3,362 cars worldwide last year.

When it comes to supercars, Canada – somewhat oddly – punches above its weight.

Canada accounts for roughly 10 per cent of Rolls-Royce’s sales in the Americas, although the country’s rich represent only 6 per cent of the hemisphere’s high-net-worth population.

One of Rolls-Royce’s top-performing dealerships globally is in Vancouver, a city of 2.4 million people. One of every 10 vehicles sold last year in Canada was a luxury car, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

Rolls-Royce says Canada is only just getting started – thanks to a growing appetite for luxury driven by super-rich immigrants, mums, and millennials.

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“Canada is quite a massively developing market,” said Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO of the BMW-owned, at Rolls-Royce’s gleaming new showroom in Vancouver.

The success of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars over the last couple of years is on the back of younger customers worldwide
Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

“I would say that it started two, three years ago when we saw this market going from one record to the next.”

Rolls-Royce has young, hipper clientele

The fabled car maker – long associated with venerable gentlemen driven by uniformed chauffeurs – has looked to a younger, less staid clientele for growth since Muller-Otvos took the helm in 2010.

It has introduced a coupe, a convertible, and edgier reinterpretations of classic marques, helping turn the 114-year-old brand into the unlikely king of pop-culture music references and the new favourite among a tribe of youthful, globalised millionaires.

The majority of our customers are global citizens – they are maybe raised in Asia but went to universities in the United States. They are very international
Torsten Muller-Otvos

“The success of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars over the last couple of years is on the back of these younger customers worldwide,” Muller-Otvos said.

“The majority of our customers are global citizens – they are maybe raised in Asia but went to universities in the United States. They are very international.”

That resonates in Canada, a beneficiary of elite Asian migration and one of the world’s fastest-growing pools of wealthy people.

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In 2016, 357,000 Canadians joined the global rich club, up 11 per cent from the previous year, a stand-out alongside Russia and Brazil, according to Capgemini’s most recent World Wealth Report, which defines rich as those with at least US$1 million in investible assets.

The uber wealthy – those with a net worth of at least US$30 million – rank Canada among the most likely places that they are inclined to emigrate to, especially if they are from Asia, according to Knight Frank’s 2018 Wealth Report.

You see quite a lot of customers from Asia, customers finding new homes here in Canada, and wanting to be seen in a Rolls-Royce
Torsten Muller-Otvos

‘Selling dreams to our customers’

While Rolls-Royce has dealerships in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary, the trends driving sales play out most visibly in Vancouver – a Pacific Coast magnet for luxury lifestyle seekers that has been dubbed the supercar capital of North America.

“You see quite a lot of customers from Asia, customers finding new homes here in Canada, and wanting to be seen in a Rolls-Royce,” Muller-Otvos said.

He declined to share specific sales figures.

“Volume is the last thing our customers want to hear. We are selling dreams, unbelievable products, we are not selling volumes.”

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The University of British Columbia has earned the moniker the University of Beautiful Cars for the student-owned fleet of Lamborghinis, Aston Martins and Porsches parked in campus lots (sometimes sporting novice driver plates).

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A local developer is building new luxury condominiums to house, not people, but fancy cars in the comfort of air conditioning, panoramic mountain views, and private gated security.

Its bilingual Chinese-English website says 80 per cent of the units are booked.

Last year, the troubled government-run car insurer doubled the premium on high-end vehicles to help offset the repair and replacement costs of fancy cars coursing the streets.

More than 70 per cent of Rolls-Royce’s customers in the city are Asian, and the biggest buyers of the hipper Wraith coupe and Dawn convertible models are yet to turn 30 – something that was “quite remarkable” according to Aly Jiwani, general manager of the Vancouver showroom.

He said one of his customers owned a fleet of 14 Rolls-Royces.

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Moreover, women are pouring into the showroom.

Female drivers already accounted for 40 per cent of Jiwani’s clientele – compared with 15 per cent on average worldwide for Rolls-Royce – and would soon probably account for half of his buyers, he said.

Expect more of that, fuelled by the brand’s Cullinan, Muller-Otvos said.

The new SUV, named after the largest diamond ever found, was designed with a market such as Canada in mind – for harsher climates, rougher terrains, more adventurous drivers, and of course, well-heeled soccer mums.

“It’s flexible – you can bring your kids to school, you can go out for the evening at the opera,” Muller-Otvos said. “It’s fully suitable for all occasions.”

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