Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has announced today that Torsten Müller-Ötvös is to retire as its Chief Executive Officer on 30 November 2023. He will be succeeded by Chris Brownridge, currently Chief Executive Officer of BMW UK.
Torsten joined Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in 2010, making him the company’s longest-serving Chief Executive since Claude Johnson, the man who brought Charles Rolls and Henry Royce together in 1904.
Commenting on the announcement, Torsten said, “Leading Rolls-Royce for almost 14 years has been the greatest privilege and pleasure of my professional life. To have grown the company and its world-class people to the position it is in today, at the pinnacle of the luxury industry, has been a remarkable adventure. I am proud of the role my exceptional team and I have played in contributing significantly to the UK economy and to the global recognition of Britain’s ability to produce the world’s best luxury products.”
Oliver Zipse, BMW Group Chief Executive, said, “Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is a jewel in the crown of our organisation. Torsten’s outstanding leadership, unswerving commitment, clear vision and exceptional ability to build a strong, focused team have helped make Rolls-Royce the world-class luxury brand it is today. We wish him the very best for his future endeavours.”
Under Torsten’s leadership, Rolls-Royce has been transformed from an automotive manufacturer to a true luxury house, revered worldwide for its exquisite motor cars, unparalleled Bespoke capabilities and deep understanding of the needs, tastes and desires of its international clients.
That transformation has translated into a remarkable commercial success. Annual sales have surged from around 1,000 motor cars in 2009 to over 6,000 in 2022. More importantly, each and every Rolls-Royce that leaves the company’s Global Centre of Luxury Manufacturing Excellence in Goodwood, West Sussex, is Bespoke: it has been made to the specific wishes of the client who has commissioned it.
Through this constant focus on Bespoke, which is realised through the finest handcraftsmanship coupled with artistic and technical creativity and innovation, Rolls-Royce is undoubtedly a leader in the luxury sector. During Torsten’s tenure, the marque has produced some of its most historic one-of-one motor cars, including several co-created with the world’s leading artists, fashion designers and luxury houses. Bespoke finds its ultimate expression in the company’s Coachbuild department, which reawakened traditional coachbuilding practices for a new era in 2017, most recently seen in the remarkable Droptail, unveiled in August.
When Torsten took up his appointment, Goodwood produced just two models, Phantom and Ghost. Under his leadership, Rolls-Royce Wraith and Dawn were introduced, as was Rolls‑Royce Cullinan, the first SUV in the marque’s history. This year sees the introduction of Spectre, the world’s first ultra-luxury electric super coupé that begins the marque’s transition to a fully electric product portfolio by the end of 2030. Torsten also saw Black Badge, the edgier, more subversive Rolls-Royce alter-ego, conceived and launched – a bold venture that has broadened the brand’s appeal significantly.
The introduction of new models to the Rolls-Royce product portfolio, the expansion of Bespoke and the clear strategic shift into the super-luxury sector have been driving factors in the company’s renaissance and ongoing business success, attracting a new generation of clients to the marque. In 2010, the average price of a Rolls-Royce was around €250,000 and the average client was aged 56; today, the average price has doubled to around €500,000 and the average age of a Rolls-Royce client is just 43.
The marque’s rejuvenation is part of a wide reshaping of the luxury industry over the past decade. Torsten’s leadership has centred on a willingness to not only participate in this change but to lead it, embracing new technologies and thinking based on the marque’s unique understanding of its clients’ tastes and desires. This is demonstrated in how Rolls-Royce brings the brand directly to its clients around the world, both physically in the form of new Private Office boutiques, and virtually with the marque’s Whispers app – a digital members’ club reserved for those who own a Goodwood-era Rolls-Royce.
Torsten said, “Whether in person or virtually on Whispers, spending so much time with our clients – the inspirational people upon whom the marque is built – has been one of my greatest joys and a true education, giving me a clear, unique and finely attuned understanding of how luxury is defined around the world.”
The success of Rolls-Royce under Torsten’s leadership is such that the company now contributes over half a billion pounds to the UK economy every year. It is also one of the largest employers in West Sussex: the exceptional team working at the Home of Rolls-Royce at Goodwood has grown from around 300 to more than 2,500, with over 50 nationalities represented.
Further commenting on today’s announcement, Torsten said, “I believe the company is ready to embrace the future with all its opportunities. We have recently submitted our plans to extend our Goodwood site significantly in order to accommodate not only further electric production, but also to fulfil demand for even more Bespoke and Coachbuild products. These areas of our business truly set us apart, and I am exceptionally proud of them.
As I leave Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, I look forward to the opportunity for new professional challenges, as well as having a little more time to visit the world’s great fly-fishing rivers! I wish Chris Brownridge the very best as he takes the helm of this wonderful marque. The team we have built over the last 14 years includes some of the most talented, dedicated and innovative minds in the luxury and automotive industries. I’m confident that, together, they will add further remarkable chapters to the extraordinary story of a company like no other in the world.”
Chris Brownridge joins Rolls-Royce Motor Cars from his current role as Chief Executive Officer of BMW UK, a position he has held since 2021. Commenting on his appointment, Oliver Zipse said, “Chris Brownridge is a hugely experienced professional with a tremendous track record – I am sure he will build on Rolls-Royce’s success and guide Rolls-Royce Motor Cars onwards into its all-electric future.”
Chris is a true sales and marketing expert, having spent almost 30 years with the BMW Group, starting as a graduate in 1995. Prior to his current position of CEO, Chris has been a member of the UK Board in various roles since 2011, including Sales Director BMW UK, BMW UK Marketing and MINI Regional Director for UK and Ireland.
Chris said, “I’m both honoured and humbled by my new appointment. To be invited to lead this great British brand, at such a pivotal moment in its long and remarkable story, is an extraordinary privilege. Rolls-Royce is one of the world’s most recognised, desirable and influential brands, and I’m keenly aware of the enormous affection and esteem in which it’s held. It’s a tribute to its magnificent products, the close relationships it maintains with its clients and, above all, to the exceptional team I’m about to join. I’m also conscious of the incredible heritage of which we are the proud custodians, and that everything we do builds on and adds to that unique legacy.
“I’m fortunate to be following Torsten as CEO. Through his vision and ambition for the brand over 14 years, Rolls-Royce is today in an exceptionally strong position, and full of confidence for the future. I’m absolutely delighted to be part of the Rolls‑Royce story and look forward to embracing the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for us all.”