How Rolls-Royce is winning over Tesla owners and millennials

NEW YORK — It's a trend that's surprised even Rolls-Royce executives: Tesla owners frantically placing preorders for Spectre, the first all-electric Rolls-Royce that costs more than $400,000.

The 118-year-old British automaker begins production of Spectre, a chic, uber-luxe coupe that seats four, this fall. Pre-orders are already in the thousands -- with some customers forced to wait until 2025 for a slot on the production list.

Rolls-Royce has also seen astronomical demand for its Cullinan SUV, with customers, many of whom are in their 30s, waiting up to 14 months to get one.

Hip, edgier and performance-driven models, including the introduction of Black Badge, have attracted new clients and accelerated sales. Rolls-Royce delivered a record 6,021 vehicles last year, up 8% from 2021. Demand for bespoke commissions is surging and owners are paying more than $500,000 on average for their Rolls-Royce.

Martin Fritsches, president and CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Americas, credits younger buyers for pushing sales to historic highs, calling them a "driving force" behind the brand's blockbuster success. The average customer is 42 years old, down from 50 eight years ago.

"We continue to strengthen our order bank and models like Spectre are also bringing us new business and new clientele," he told ABC News. "[Rolls-Royce] is a brand that continues to evolve."

When the company unveiled a prototype of Spectre to customers last summer in Goodwood, England, Fritsches said executives were dumbfounded by the response.

"It was eye-opening for us, mind-blowing," he said. "Customers are waiting such a long time for the product -- there is no precedent in Rolls-Royce history. It's becoming a challenge to manage expectations. I have customers constantly texting me, 'Martin, where is my Spectre? When am I getting it?'"

Tesla owners in particular are now "finally adding a Rolls-Royce to their garage," he added.

Rolls-Royce, long celebrated for its hand-built automobiles, lavish interiors and mighty V12 engines, announced in September of 2021 that it would end production of its internal combustion conveyances and become an electric vehicle company by the end of 2030.

Spectre, which the company says is a "Rolls-Royce first, electric car second," can travel an estimated 260 miles on a full charge. It sprints from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and delivers 664 ft-lb of torque and 577 horsepower.

Two-time World Series champion Brandon Belt bought his first Rolls two years ago for weekend trips with the family. His growing auto collection includes the latest cars from Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Porsche. Belt's Cullinan SUV, however, stands apart.

"Cullinan is the pinnacle of coolness, luxury, comfort and style," the 34-year-old first baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays told ABC News. "No other vehicle can match all these qualities."

Belt has a Black Badge Cullinan on order at his local Houston dealership, along with a Spectre.

"I am really excited about it. That will be a special one," he said.

More than half of Rolls-Royces produced between 2015 and 2022 are sold to Generation X customers, according to Jonathan Klinger, vice president of car culture at Hagerty.

"Younger buyers are partly why Rolls-Royce is doing so well. They're buying Rolls-Royces in greater quantities," he told ABC News. "A higher percentage of younger people is investing in a 'fun' vehicle -- they're not waiting until they're older."

The Cullinan helped shed the company's "unapologetically conservative luxury" label, Klinger noted, adding that Spectre will draw in deep-pocketed techies and early adopters of electric vehicles.

"The younger population is fascinated by EVs," he said.

Joe Wierda, general manager of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Orlando, said he has a long list of clients who have put down $10,000 deposits on a Spectre. He's received more preorders for Spectre than any other Rolls-Royce vehicle in the last decade.

"This is new territory for Rolls-Royce," he told ABC News. "The design alone is so attractive that people want it and the torque and silence fit Rolls-Royce perfectly."

He's sold many Rolls-Royces to clients in their early 30s, individuals who "want to get the best car they can get," he said.

"A Rolls-Royce shows 'I have made it,'" he explained.

Sean Sleiman, 37, is one of Wierda's regular clients. He and his business partner own four Rolls-Royces, with two Spectres scheduled to arrive in January.

"It's one of the coolest cars I've ever seen," Sleiman told ABC News. "It bumps Rolls-Royce up to the next level. We thought they did a great job on it."

Sleiman, who already owns a Tesla Model X Plaid, said he will have to install a home charger for his Spectre. He splits his time between Orlando and Miami, a distance of 235 miles. Sleiman said charging his Spectre on the go, however, may be challenging.

"I am not so sure about the charging experience on the road. We will have to figure this out," he said.

Paul Dumont, general manager of Manhattan Motorcars, said Rolls-Royce's transformation in the last few years has been remarkable. There is so much buzz about Spectre that Dumont's clients may have to wait more than a year for one.

"This is the first electric Rolls-Royce. It's a big deal," he told ABC News.

Rolls-Royce has been adding jobs at its Goodwood factory to keep up with production, including a future electric sport utility vehicle. Cullinan is the company's bestselling model globally and the U.S. is the largest market for Rolls-Royce.

The Ghost, a genteel sedan with all-wheel drive, four-wheel steering and a turbocharged 6.7-liter V12 engine, has become the top Rolls-Royce in the Asia-Pacific region, though more Americans, especially families in the Northeast, are choosing one over a Cullinan. The Ghost accounts for 35% of the company's sales.

Dumont said he sells a lot of Ghosts to his New York City and northern New Jersey clients who prefer the coach rear doors, sharp handling, opulent cabin and pillowy ride.

Younger buyers may choose Rolls-Royce for the utility, technology and provocative styling. The company, however, will always stay true to its original mission.

"Rolls-Royce is more about refinement. That's what sets it apart -- the craftsmanship is unbelievable," Dumont said. "To some degree the brand is peerless."

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