By Nick Carey
LONDON (Reuters) -Luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce, a unit of Germany's BMW, said on Monday its sales soared 49% to a record high in 2021 despite the global coronavirus pandemic, as demand worldwide for luxury vehicles surged.
In an online presentation, Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös said the carmaker sold 5,586 vehicles to customers in more than 50 countries, the largest number in its 117-year history despite all the volatility wrought by the pandemic.
"In the luxury sector as a whole, the struggle was not so much focused on attempting to find customers, but rather producing enough product to satisfy huge customer demand," Müller-Ötvös said.
He said sales hit all-time records in most regions, including China and the Americas.
Premium and luxury car sales have been growing more broadly in key global markets such as China and the United States as pandemic travel restrictions have left wealthy consumers with more disposable income.
"Covid forced many people to ground, not to travel anymore and for that reason there is quite a lot of wealth accumulated and that is spent on luxury goods," Müller-Ötvös told Reuters. "We profited from that development."
He said the carmaker's British plant in Goodwood was running at close to maximum capacity and its order books were full well into the third quarter of 2022.
"If you order a Rolls-Royce today, you will expect to take delivery of it about a year from now," he said.
Luxury British carmaker Bentley, a unit of Volkswagen AG said last week that it had cruised to a record year in 2021 as global sales jumped 31% amid strong demand for high-end vehicles.
Last week BMW said it had achieved record sales of over 2.2 million vehicles from its BMW brand in 2021, outstripping 2019 sales despite a global shortage of semiconductor chips.
Müller-Ötvös said that while the chip shortage was cause for concern, Rolls-Royce's parent BMW had "assured that we could take delivery of all the chips we need to build our cars, so we haven't seen any shortages."
(Reporting by Nick Carey; editing by David Evans and Louise Heavens)