Paul Harris says that the luxury car market is changing, with young wealth generators taking the wheel of their newer and bolder models like the Black Badge Cullinan (left).
Drive Cars and Bikes

The average age of a Rolls-Royce buyer has dropped from 53 to 39, says this car exec

Paul Harris, Asia Pacific regional director for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, on developing the modern sports car, his bustling work life, and the evolving patronage of luxury automobiles.
Fidel Feria | Feb 05 2020

To get a picture of life as a highly placed executive, for no less than one of the most prestigious automobile companies in the world, I ask Paul Harris to describe a usual day at the office. The response—the objection to the premise—is concise: There are no such days—not as Asia Pacific regional director for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, a subsidiary of German group BMW.

There is no set routine due mostly to the region’s diversity, Harris, who had previously served as general manager for BMW Group in Northern Europe, writes via email. “I could be speaking to UHNWI (or Ultra High Net Worth Individuals) patrons at a Lunar New Year event in the morning, attending an afternoon tea session with Japanese dealers, or at an evening event with an Australian celebrity chef,” Harris continues. “The experience here is dazzling as much as it is diverse.”

On the occasions away from “the lights and sounds,” however, Harris’ work entails, for the most part, developing strategies for the brand. The native of Windsor, United Kingdom manages a team that keeps a watchful eye on how to navigate business to the benefit of patrons and shareholders alike.

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Harris arrived at his current post after having seen opportunity to evolve Asia for Roll-Royce. “Being English and having worked in the industry for a number of years, this was for me a great fit from an experience and future learning point of view,” Harris says. “The brand is illustrious yet forward looking, and learning about the craftsmanship and quality that goes into each Rolls-Royce has been fantastic.”

Currently, Rolls-Royce is represented in 30 cities in the Asia Pacific region, where Harris sees great potential in a market populated by young successful individuals. It is worth noting that in a 2017 interview, Harris told CNBC that the  average age of a Rolls-Royce consumer had dropped from 53 to 39. The executive says it signals a change for the better in the brand’s patronage.

Harris started in marketing and market research, where he developed such modern sports cars as the Z1, E30, M3, and E36/7 Z3.

“They recognize that our products are no longer reserved for the cane-wielding, hat-tipping types, but for young and highly successful individuals that have achieved great success on their own terms,” Harris explains.

He furthers his case by pointing to the sales performance of the Rolls-Royce Black Badge in the region, which has one of the highest penetration rates, or the percentage of one’s target market that is reached with a product, at close to 40 percent of every Rolls-Royce sold in the Asia-Pacific market.

“This paints an even better picture for overall success and future of the region,” Harris elaborates. “We can infer from this trend that there are a growing number of young wealth generators that build new empires based on tech, disruption and other new means of income generation to power nations ahead.”

 

Father, son, and motorbikes

Had it not been for his engineer father, Paul Harris might’ve wound up in the motorcycle business. As a boy, he grew fond of motorbikes and BMW boxer-engined bikes, and he often read books on these subjects to supplement his growing interest.

But after having been introduced by his old man to automobiles, as well as the corresponding skills necessary to its maintenance, such as crafting technical drawings and understanding tolerances, Harris resolved to start a career in the automotive industry.

Harris went on to attend Coventry University, a premier institution in the automotive hub of the United Kingdom, where he studied Business and Finance and wrote a thesis on dealership sustainability. Shortly thereafter, when news broke that BMW Group UK would be setting up shop in the area, Harris pounced at the opportunity to work for the company.

 

Rising through the ranks

“I started in marketing and market research, where I developed what eventually became modern sports cars,” Harris details. “The Z1, E30, M3, and E36/7 Z3. I also worked on the first ever BMW SUV, the X5, and its smaller X3 sibling later on.”

Through his understanding of necessary strategies and adaptability, Harris would go on to undertake roles in sales and financial services, as well. Eventually, he was assigned general manager in Northern Europe, where he would oversee, among other areas, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and the Baltic States.

In January of 2010, Harris was assigned the post of Asia Pacific regional director, where he is determined as ever to extend the promise of the luxury business—the “lighthouse for the world,” as he puts it—to this region and its people.

 

We understand you're fond of cooking. What's your go-to dish to prepare at the moment?

 Indian influenced Bhajiis, Prata—Indian Flat Bread, a Singapore delicacy!—and any Vegetable Curry

 

What's the last book that you read?

Jack Canfield's Success Principles. Andrea Agassi’s Open, for fun.

 

Who were your idols growing up?

Frank Lampard as I’m an avid footballer, the skier Franz Klammer, and Barry Sheen.

 

What's your favorite city?

 I have many, but if I had to pick one I'd say Stockholm.

 

What is one thing about the motoring industry that needs a drastic change?

Many things need drastic changes! But if I had to pick one it would be the need for changing the way we package and sell cars, as well as the resultant way we serve potential customers.

 

Apart from reading and cooking, what do you do for fun?

I have two young kids that make me laugh and amaze me with their learning. That’s plenty of fun. I also like stand-up comedy, and fishing to get away from it all and disconnect once and awhile!

 

How do you keep physically fit?

Swimming, skiing and the gym. I also, miraculously, grace the 5-a-side football pitch once a week. I also sign up for an occasional game of tennis.

 

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?

Bombay Bicycle Club, Prefab Sprout, Water Boys

 

What is your dream car?

I have many! So I will name three off the top of my head right now: the Rolls-Royce Black Badge Cullinan​, the BMW E46 M3 CSL, and the Caterham Super 7.

 

What is still on your bucket list?

That’s long with many ticked off to date, but one of the top unchecked activities is competing in a rally stage!