Rolls Royce's Electric Slide: The Spectre Takes Center Stage

December 07, 2023

Irene Nikkein, Asia Pacific Regional Director for Rolls Royce

In the exciting backdrop of Asia Pacific’s luxury automotive scene, Irene Nikkein, Asia Pacific Regional Director for Rolls Royce, tunes into the frequency of the future with the Spectre, the brand’s inaugural electric glide into luxury. The Spectre isn’t just a new car on the block; it’s an electric riff in the symphony of Rolls Royce’s heritage, striking a chord with both loyalists and newcomers alike.

In a candid back-and-forth that feels more like a fireside chat than a corporate interview, Nikkein lays down the track for what could be the most significant pivot in Rolls Royce’s storied history. “It’s amazing,” she declares about the Spectre, the marque’s first ultra-luxury electric car that’s been creating a buzz louder than a stadium concert.

The Spectre is not just a new model; it’s Rolls Royce’s electric anthem, a bold proclamation that the future is now. Nikkein admits the transition has been smoother than expected as the timeless allure of Rolls Royce’s silent glide has found a new stage in the electric vehicle (EV) arena.”There was a very natural curiosity and a belief around it,” she explains.

Our conversation isn’t about horsepower and torque; it’s about a legacy plugging into the modern age. Half of the Spectre’s pre-orders are from clients who’ve never had a Rolls Royce, a testament to the brand’s expanding influence. The Spectre, it seems, is hitting all the right notes, appealing to a broader audience while staying true to the brand’s core values of craftsmanship and serenity.

Nikkein’s voice carries the cadence of a seasoned artist discussing her latest piece, blending reverence for tradition with the anticipation of innovation. But the journey to electric is not without its potholes. She speaks candidly about the challenges of infusing the Rolls Royce DNA into an EV – from retraining factory workers to ensuring the ‘magic carpet ride’ remains unaffected by the switch to battery power. It’s a delicate balance between embracing the future and preserving the essence of the brand and its legacy of whisper-quiet luxury that is its hallmark.

“That’s always been the Rolls Royce experience,” Nikkein notes. “The quietness, the peace around the car – it’s our signature. We’ve always stood for strong heritage, craftsmanship, and exclusivity.” Yet, there’s a palpable sense of evolution in her words, an acknowledgement that the marque must evolve to stay relevant and connected. The ‘magic carpet ride’ must remain intact, even as the engine’s familiar hum gives way to silence. She delves into the nitty-gritty of marrying Rolls Royce’s storied past with an electric powertrain, of re-engineering the brand’s DNA for the electric age. Like a band going acoustic, the challenge lies in maintaining the essence while embracing the new. Does Rolls Royce envision a completely electric future? “Yes. Completely. By 2030 100%.We stand by this statement. It’s a promise that won’t change. It was a promise prophesized 123 years ago by Rolls Royce.”

The Spectre is not just a new model; it's Rolls Royce's electric anthem

Nikkein adds, “Rolls Royce isn’t just manufacturing cars; it’s weaving stories, connecting an illustrious past to a future charged with potential. It’s not about reliving the glory days but about remixing them for an audience that values sustainability as much as luxury.”

What about Rolls Royce’s promise of being assembled by hand? With the EV in focus that image begins to blur. Says Nikkein, “You can’t take away robots, because of the weight of the car, the weight of the equipment. The battery itself is 700 kilogrammes. You can’t move that with humans! But if you look at the number of people on the line fixing every single bolt and nut, making sure everything is just right and polished, that essence is still there.”

Spectre however won’t drive out into a perfect world – the road to electrification isn’t just about the cars; it’s about the world they’ll drive in. Speaking of the infrastructure blues faced across the diverse terrains of the Asia Pacific, Nikkein is optimistic, citing a crescendo of government investments and initiatives. It’s a fragmented scene, but she’s confident that the rhythm will sync in due time, and the infrastructure will catch up with the electric dream.

As the spotlight shifts, Irene reflects on her role in an industry where women have historically been underrepresented. She speaks with the ease of a solo performer, sharing her story, underscoring the importance of inclusion, the support she received, diversity in driving innovation, and her willingness to mentor, help and encourage. Speaking of women, she adds, “I have a duty in this organisation to help and give that confidence to women in general that if you set your mind for something, you can just go for it.” She underlines the importance of learning to speak up.

As our interview nears its end, it’s clear that Irene Nikkein is as much a part of Rolls Royce’s narrative as the vehicles themselves. The Spectre is a declaration of this new era, a proof that an electric Rolls Royce can still provide the unparalleled experience expected from the marque.

As our conversation winds down, the topic shifts back to the emotional resonance of Rolls Royce. For Nikkein, the marque isn’t just a manufacturer of high-end vehicles; it’s a custodian of memories, a narrative that extends from the past into the future, linking generations.

The Spectre and Irene Nikkein share a kindred spirit – forward-thinking, refined, and ready to lead the way. This isn’t just a shift in gear for Rolls Royce; it’s a leap into a future where luxury and electric go hand in hand, redefining what it means to drive – and to dream.

Neetinder Dhillon
With over two and half decades in the media, The Front Row founder Neetinder Dhillon has plenty of stories to tell. As the former editor of several lifestyle, travel, inflight and B2B magazines, she has been in the front row keeping a close eye on news, trends and all things luxe. She subscribes to Pico Iyer’s concept of luxury: In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.

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