It’s not that the folks listening to live music, downing Kent Rathbun canapes and Moet champagne and inspecting the new, $430,000-plus Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe last night at Park Place Dealerships are disconnected from the economy, exactly. Sure, luxury-car sales at Park Place are down slightly from last year, marketing director Rob Sumner says. But the people who favor expensive cars like the Rolls–captain of industry types–are still buying them, even as many watch their net worths shrink. Heck, Sumner says, Park Place sold five Rolls or Bentleys just last week. Take David Genever-Watling and his wife, Janet (shown here in a Marty Perlman photo), for example. Janet and her husband, a former president and CEO of GE Power Systems, were all over the ’09 Phantom last night–for one main reason.
The reason? Excitement.
“I have a white ’07 Phantom,” Janet said with the clipped accent of her native England. “I was worried because this new one is a coupe, whether there would be enough room in it. But I had David climb into the back seat, and room is not a problem. This one has a little excitement to it.”
“She likes excitement,” interjected David, who also is English.
Asked whether she drives the Rolls herself or retains a chauffeur, Janet said she always gets into the back seat and has David drive her around, even requiring him to wear a chauffeur’s uniform at times.
She was kidding about that, I think.
“There’s only one problem with this car,” David said then, pointing to the new Rolls’ metallic-like hood. “It’s not bird-s***-proof.”
The Genever-Watlings–or just “GW,” for short–have lived in Dallas 10 years, following David’s retirement from GE. These days he “sits on a few boards,” but is seriously considering returning to full-time work again, by popular demand.
“It’s getting harder and harder to not work,” he said, referring to the troubled economy. “People are asking for help, lots of help. These are unprecedented times. If someone had told me a few years ago that you could buy a share of GE for $12.78, I would have told them they were out of it.
“I really think we need to go to a war-time footing,” David went on. “We need someone like a Winston Churchill or a George S. Patton to be put back in. Someone who will tell it like it is.”
“I’m thinking of planting vegetables,” Janet added. “Like the old Victory Gardens.”
I think she was kidding about that, too. Because today, the GWs said before disappearing, they intend to take the new Rolls coupe out for a test drive.