Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös to Retire

Jackson Wheeler
7 Min Read


  • Rolls-Royce’s CEO plans on stepping down at the end of November, handing the reins over to current BMW UK head, Chris Brownridge.
  • Torsten Müller-Ötvös’ accomplishments include a more than 600% increase in sales since he stepped into the position in 2009, to 6021 units sold in 2022, while doubling the average price per car and lowering the average buyer age.
  • Müller-Ötvös was also responsible for bringing the Cullinan SUV, a decision for which he was widely mocked. Today, the Cullinan represents about half of global sales.

“I’ve had nearly 14 years of shaping the brand,” Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce, who is departing November 30, told Autoweek during a California drive of the new Spectre back in June.

“I wanted to have a clear long-term strategy in place before I left, and the Spectre, Rolls-Royce’s first electric car, represents an important milestone in that evolution. I don’t feel there is unfinished business.” The CEO’s retirement was announced October 5.

Thinking of his legacy, Müller-Ötvös, who joined the company in 2010, said, “I think I was able to rejuvenate Rolls-Royce in a substantial way, both in terms of volume and price. When I arrived, the brand was on a pedestal. We introduced new models and a younger clientele. We forged good relationships, which is key and one reason BMW left me in the position for so long.”

chris brownridge, ceo of bmw group uk bmw hq, farnborough, hampshire 12122

Chris Brownridge, formerly at BMW UK, takes over December 1.

Andy Hall

Müller-Ötvös was Rolls’ longest-serving CEO since Claude Johnson (“the hyphen in Rolls-Royce”) who served from 1910 to his death in 1926.

Succeeding Müller-Ötvös will be Chris Brownridge, currently CEO of BMW in the UK. “He’s coming in with strong ties throughout the BMW Group, and being British he has a natural affinity for the brand,” said Gerry Spahn, the company’s U.S. spokesman.

BMW is the fourth-largest brand in British sales currently, and produced a tenth of the battery EVs sold there last year. Brownridge, who was not available for comment, told The Guardian, “I genuinely think we are on the edge of probably the most exciting time in the industry.”

The CEO’s accomplishments are there in the raw numbers. The company sold around 1000 cars in 2009, and 6021 in 2022, a sales record. The average Rolls cost €250,000 in 2010, and sold to clients averaging 56 years old.

Today, the typical car goes for €500,000 and the average buyer is 43. The company’s sales revenue increased from €250 million to approximately €3 billion during the CEO’s tenure. Operating margins are said to be as high as 30 percent. “We are extremely profitable for the BMW Group,” said Spahn.

Quite a bit of the company’s success can be attributed to its best-selling model, the Cullinan SUV, unveiled in 2018. “They said to me, ‘You must be bonkers to be developing an SUV,’” Müller-Ötvös said.

Rolls-Royce has invested approximately $2.5 billion in new electric designs and plants, and will be an all-electric brand by the end of 2030.

The Cullinan represented about half of global sales in 2022, followed by the Ghost, which was over 30 percent and the Phantom with 10 percent. The latter two were the brand’s only two models when the new CEO took over in 2010; since then the Cullinan, Wraith, and Dawn were introduced.

Rolls-Royce has invested approximately $2.5 billion in new electric designs and plants, and will be an all-electric brand by the end of 2030. The Spectre goes on sale in the fourth quarter of this year, is sold out through 2024 and into 2025, Spahn said. The plug-in Rolls starts at $420,000 but goes well into the low $500,000s with options.

The company is not divulging either the volume of its pre-orders or its planned production numbers, but Müller-Ötvös has said that 40 percent of Spectre customers are new to the brand.

“An EV naturally fits with the Rolls-Royce idea of making the cabin a rolling sanctuary, but the Spectre illustrates that craftsmanship is at the center of the brand regardless of what’s powering the wheels,” said Michael Austin, senior research analyst for EVs and mobility at Guidehouse Insights.

rolls royce spectre battery electric car

The Spectre is Rolls-Royce’s first production battery electric car, but the brand will be all-electric by 2030.

Rolls-Royce

“It interesting how the perception of EV has changed over Müller-Ötvös’ tenure. The positive reception for the Spectre is 180 degrees from the 102EX concept shown at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, which Rolls-Royce customers at the time universally rejected, according to some reports.”

Müller-Ötvös doubled down on Rolls’ commitment to individualized “bespoke” production. “Clients are intrigued to see cars go down the assembly line to their own specifications,” he said.

Cars in the invitation-only Coachbuild series such as the exclusive Boat Tails, can escalate the bottom line far beyond the €500,000 average price for price-is-no-object customers. The third and final car in the series, first shown last year, was estimated at $28 million. The company’s Black Badge editions also aim at the next level. Rolls is expanding production for Coachbuild and bespoke at its Goodwood, England, facilities.

Müller-Ötvös, who drives a Morgan Plus Four for fun, had been at BMW since 1996, and was named director of the Mini brand in 2000. His future plans include fly fishing in Germany and Switzerland.

Headshot of Jim Motavalli

Contributing Editor

Jim Motavalli is an auto writer and author (nine books) who contributes to Autoweek and Barron’s Penta. He has written two books on electric cars, Forward Drive (2000) and High Voltage (2010), and hosts the Plugging In podcast.  

Motavalli’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, CBS Moneywatch, Car Talk at NPR, Forbes, US News and World Report, Sierra Magazine, Audubon, and many more. In his spare time, he reviews books and jazz.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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