When it comes to mapping the world’s changing plutocracy, the Rolls-Royce Index is among the more useful tools. Simply put, it measures which country is buying the most Rolls-Royces. The index not only gives us a sense of the country’s with the most excess wealth to burn (a base model Rolls will set you back at least $245,000), but also the citizens who are most anxious to display it. For ages, America has topped the list. But 2011, China beat out the U.S. to top the index for the first time.
According to a report in the L.A. Times, the country known just a decade ago as the bicycle capital of the world now leads in Rolls Royce buying. To honor their new best customers, Rolls is unveiling “Year of the Dragon” models “with hand-embroidered versions of mythical animals on leather headrests.” The sticker price: $1.6 million. Many of China’s Rolls buyers are heirs and heiresses, rather than self-made rich. “Our customers are super-rich, second-generation young people who have inherited money or whose parents buy them cars,” Wilson Ho of the dealership and luxury group Sparkle Rolls. “Chinese parents love their kids. They’ll buy them whatever they like.”
Rolls Royce said the official numbers for 2011 won’t be out until Jan. 9, and it never breaks out country-by-country sales. In 2010, the company had its best year ever with 2,711 cars sold globally and 2011 will be even better. The company said that as of June of 2011, Asia Pacific led the world in Rolls sales growth. While sales in North American grew 40%, sales in Asia/Pac grew 170%.