Company Overview: Rolls-Royce


Rolls Royce Company Overview

- History

A brief history of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

In July 1998 BMW acquired the rights to the marque of Rolls-Royce for automotive business from their rightful owners, the aero engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce plc – a company to which BMW have been business partners for many years. BMW Group are also a 10 % shareholder of Rolls-Royce plc.

Subsequently, a transition period of five years (1998-2002) was agreed between BMW Group and Volkswagen (who acquired the marque Bentley and the “old” factory at Crewe), allowing BMW Group sufficient time for setting up the new Rolls-Royce motor car company inclusive of an all new manufacturing plant and head office for Rolls-Royce motor cars in the UK. 

This transition period was agreed in the interests of dealers and customers alike in order to avoid any interruption in Rolls-Royce motor car business.

For that purpose BMW licensed the Crewe company free of charge to use the name Rolls-Royce and carry on with production and distribution of RR motor cars until 31 December 2002. Also, Project Rolls-Royce agreed not to communicate details of the new RR01 motor car in public.
BMW repeatedly confirmed that Rolls-Royce would remain a stand alone company, based in the UK, with its own Board and its own management. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited is an affiliate of BMW Group and Tony Gott is CEO.

BMW have been a major development partner in the past and an important supplier to the Crewe factory. BMW share good and friendly relations with them, and have done so now for many years.

Rolls meets Royce

On 4 May 1904, Rolls, Edmunds and Royce met at the Midland Hotel. Rolls was initially sceptical about the abilities of a two-cylinder powered car to be as refined as he believed would be necessary to appeal to his customers. However after a drive he became totally supportive and said later that Royce “ was the man I have been looking for years”.

Rolls was anxious to have exclusive rights to sell Royce cars and an agreement was drawn up for C.S. Rolls and Co. to take all the motor cars made by Royce Ltd. The agreement, which was finally signed on 23 December 1904 included a clause stipulating that the cars should be called “Rolls-Royce”. At Rolls request, work started in earnest to build a range of cars to be exhibited at the Paris Salon in early December 1904. A 10hp Royce car, a 10hp Rolls-Royce car, a 15hp and a 20hp incomplete car and a 30hp 6-cylinder engine were all produced and exhibited.

In anticipation of the formal agreement between Rolls and Royce the 10hp car carried the Rolls-Royce radiator and name. The Rolls-Royce company was formed in March 1906 and the following year Royce produced the Silver Ghost, which was to set the standard for all models that followed.

As was standard practice, Rolls-Royce cars were produced in chassis form for specialist coachbuilders to add the individual body style ordered by customers. Rolls-Royce cars maintained this tradition until 1946.

Charles Rolls, tragically, did not enjoy the full success that his partnership with Royce became. As well as motor racing, he also had a passion for flying, being a pioneer in the air as well as on the ground. He died in a flying accident at Bournemouth on 12 July 1910, being the first Englishman to be killed in an aircraft.

Henry Royce (he dropped his first name of Frederick) continued to create outstanding cars and the Rolls-Royce business flourished, outgrowing its original Manchester premises to expand with a new factory at first Derby (1908), then at Crewe (1938 for aero engines, and 1945 for car production) until the all new Rolls-Royce manufacturing plant and head office was opened at Goodwood, West Sussex in 2003.

In 1931 Rolls-Royce acquired their rival, Bentley, which remained within the organisation until the end of 2002, with Bentley versions of Rolls-Royce models providing a second model line.

Royce was created a Baronet for his services to motoring and aero engines in 1930. He lived in West Wittering, less than 10 miles from Goodwood, from 1917 until he died, at the age of 70, on 22 April 1933.

Rolls-Royce expanded into the development and production of aero engines (see below) and in 1971, the aero engine division required government funding to enable it to continue development work. This resulted in the flotation of the car business as a separate company in 1973.

Subsequently the resulting Rolls-Royce motor car company at Crewe became part of Vickers plc, with the aero engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce plc keeping the rights to the marque.

The new Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited at Goodwood
In 1998 the existing production facilities at Crewe plus the Bentley name were sold by Vickers plc to Volkswagen, whereas the BMW AG acquired the rights to the Rolls-Royce marque for automotive business from Rolls-Royce plc for the continued development and production of Rolls-Royce motor cars at an entirely new plant from January 2003 onwards.

For the new generation of Rolls-Royce motor cars, an engineering and design team was established in central London during 1999 to create the car, which was to become the new Phantom.

Simultaneously an extensive search of locations was undertaken to find an appropriate site for the future head office and manufacturing plant within the UK.

The decision was made that a site on the Goodwood Estate, near Chichester in West Sussex would become the new home of Rolls-Royce motor cars, the sixth in the company’s history, after Manchester, Derby, Crewe, London and Springfield.

In January 2003 the all new Phantom was launched to the world by the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited, now being a stand alone company of the BMW Group, produced from its new plant at Goodwood, on schedule, as planned five years previously.

Milestones of Motoring
During the past 90 years Rolls-Royce motor cars have graced the world’s motoring scene and it is estimated that more than 60 per cent of all motor cars produced by the company during this period are still in use, somewhere in the world.

The Rolls-Royce 40/50hp “Silver Ghost”, 1907- 1925
The Silver Ghost was introduced in 1907 and remained in production until 1925 with 7,870 examples being built. The model was considered by Royce himself to be the best car he had ever made and it became known as “the best car in the world.”

About 1,700 Silver Ghost models were made in Springfield, USA, where Rolls-Royce established a factory in 1921 to cope with demand and to minimise transportation costs and import duties. Production in the USA stopped in 1931 for cost reasons.

The Rolls-Royce 20hp, 1922-1929
To meet the demand for smaller cars in the UK, Royce created the Twenty, 20hp – or “the baby Rolls-Royce” as it became known. The car sacrificed none of the Rolls-Royce standards of silence, comfort and ease of control but its excellent performance for its smaller size with a top speed of 62 mph made it very popular with owner-drivers and 2,940 were produced.

In 1929 the 20/25 was introduced, a natural progression from the 20hp, but with an increased cylinder bore, making it considerably faster with a top speed of over 75 mph. A total of 3,827 were produced by the end of production in 1936. The 25/30hp was introduced in 1936 with a 4,257cc, 6-cylinder engine of which 1,201 were built.

The Rolls-Royce Phantom Series
The Phantom Series spanned the period from 1925 until 1968 with the Phantom I being produced between 1925 and 1929. The new Phantom was a development of the Silver Ghost fitted with an overhead valve engine, giving it superior performance. The chassis provided coachbuilders both in Britain and America with the basis of some of the most beautiful body styles ever seen. A total of 3,502 Phantom I cars were produced.

The Phantom II continued the coachbuilding traditions seen on the Phantom I but with an improved suspension system and a Continental model with a shorter chassis was also manufactured. Between 1929 and 1935 1,680 models were produced.

The Phantom III, between 1936 and 1939 was powered by a 7,340cc V-12 engine and was capable of more than100 mph. It was the first Rolls-Royce model to be fitted with independent front suspension. A total of 727 were produced.

The Phantom IV was produced for Royalty and Heads of State only with just 18 examples being manufactured, between 1950 and 1956.

The Phantom V was based on the Silver Cloud II but with a lengthened chassis. The overall length provided enormous scope for coachbuilders and the weight distribution was such that its handling was very similar to that of a smaller model. Between 1959 and 1968, 832 cars were produced.

The Phantom VI was a seven seat, four-door limousine, handbuilt at Mulliner
Park Ward. The Phantom VI Special Landaulette was built to special order only in strictly limited production. Total production of the Phantom VI between 1968 and 1991 reached 374 motor cars.

The Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn, 1949-1955
The Silver Dawn represented a return to post-war production, and a new departure for the company as the first model to have a pressed steel body, rather than independent coachwork. The car was initially produced mainly for export but was later made available for the British market. In total 761 models were produced.

The Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I, II and III, 1955-1966
The Silver Cloud, in three series, from 1955 to 1966 produced 7,868 models in a more streamlined body style. It is seen by many as the archetypal post war Rolls-Royce motor car. The first series was the last of the 6-cylinder engined cars. With its long coachwork, combined with many engineering improvements the car became the best-selling Rolls-Royce. Silver Cloud II was introduced in 1959 with a new aluminium 6,230 cc V-8 engine and in 1962 Silver Cloud III was launched with a lower bonnet line and coachwork featuring four headlamps.

The Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, 1965-1980
The Silver Shadow introduced many changes both in construction, engineering features and appearance. For the first time it incorporated unitary construction, all-round independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, automatic suspension levelling and full power braking. A total of 20,604 were manufactured. The Silver Shadow II, from 1977 until 1980 featured a revised steering system and body styling and a further 8,425 models were produced.

The Rolls-Royce Corniche, 1971-1987
The Corniche was hand-built at Mulliner Park Ward, London and was originally available as a two door saloon and as a convertible with a total production of 4347 motor cars. The two door saloon was discontinued in 1981. When the new Corniche was launched as part of the Silver Seraph range (see below), Park Ward again undertook the coachwork for the long wheelbase and convertible models.

The Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, 1980-1989
During the 1980s the company introduced the Silver Spirit, a four door saloon, powered by the light alloy V-8 engine; the Silver Spirit II was launched in 1990 with a long wheelbase counterpart, known as the Silver Spur.

The Rolls-Royce Silver Spur Centenary,1985
The 100,000th Rolls-Royce motor car, calculated by aggregating all Rolls-Royce models produced together with post 1931 Bentleys, was commemorated by the production of a limited edition of 25 Silver Spur models. Each one had several “silver” extras in keeping with the tradition established by the 1907 Silver Ghost.

The Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph, 1998-2002
Launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1998, the Silver Seraph became the last major new model built at Crewe (1,570 motor cars), along with its long wheelbase version Park Ward (129) and the Corniche convertible (374). Being already a major development partner by then, BMW supplied the Crewe factory with its V12 engines, air conditioning and airbag components as well as seats and numerous electronics.

“The Spirit of Ecstasy”
The Spirit of Ecstasy statuette is probably the best known motor car mascot in the world, and has adorned the radiators of Rolls-Royce motor cars since 1911.

It was at that time that the company had become concerned that some owners had taken to mounting rather odd and frivolous ornaments on top of the radiator, not at all in keeping with the style and ethos of a Rolls-Royce!

As ever seeking perfection in all aspects of its motor cars, the directors of Rolls-Royce, turned to Charles Robinson Sykes, a prominent artist who had produced a series of paintings of Silver Ghost models, owned by Lord John Montagu of Beaulieu to produce a radiator mascot which captured the spirit of the marque.

The company explained that the authorised figurine would be “in the model of a little lady, the spirit of the Rolls-Royce – namely, speed with silence, absence of vibration, the mysterious harnessing of great energy, a beautiful living organism of superb grace like a sailing yacht.

“Such is the spirit of the Rolls-Royce and such is the combination of virtues which Mr Charles Sykes has expressed so admirably in the graceful little lady who is designed as a figurehead of the Rolls-Royce.”

Rolls-Royce agreed that Sykes would be the sole supplier of the mascot and production was initially organised from the Sykes family home in Brompton Road, West London. The identity of the model for the figurine has been one of continuing controversy and rumour and it was suggested that she was, in fact, Eleanor Thornton, the personal assistant to Lord Montagu at the time.


All prices listed are exclusive of tax and delivery charges



Phantom Extended Wheelbase

Phantom Drophead Coupé













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o Place
79 Dealerships worldwide. USA(32), UK (6), China (4), Germany (4).

o Promotion

Rolls-Royce is positioned as a separate brand within the BMW Group. It rounds up the BMW Groups´ premium brand strategy into the high end segment of the luxury car market, where it is well established and has been so for nearly 100 years. 

Hence the production of the new 4 door saloon, Rolls-Royce Phantom, of approximately 1,000 cars per annum on average, with no “down positioning” into lower price regions in mind.

o Product description
Rolls-Royce Phantom
The first new model launched under BMW control. The Phantom is a front-engined V12 4-door sedan.
Top speed 149 mph / 240 km/h
Acceleration 0-60 mph 5.7 sec
Acceleration 0-100 km/h 5.9 sec
Acceleration 0-1,000 m 25.6 sec

Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé
Launched at the Detroit Motor Show 2006, the Phantom Drophead Coupé is the second new model from Rolls-Royce since BMW Group became custodian of the marque in 1998. The two-door, four-seat convertible is a less formal interpretation of classic Rolls-Royce design. Using the lightweight rigidity of an all-aluminium spaceframe, it marries modern technology to a sleek, streamlined convertible body.

Top speed 149 mph / 240 km/h (governed)
Acceleration 0-100 km/h 5.9 sec

- Segmentation
- Market Shares
BMW Group (Rolls-Royce, Mini, BMW) 1.9% for USA market

- Production Numbers
2006: Fewer than 1,000 worldwide

- Sales Numbers
Rolls-Royce Brand: Fewer than 1,000 worldwide
BMW Group total 2006 sales in USA: 313,603 +2.5% increase over 2006

- Infrastructure

Company Headquarters: Goodwood

BMW repeatedly stated that it would set up a new manufacturing plant and head office for Rolls-Royce motor cars in the UK – the fourth one for the marque in its nearly one hundred years of history, after Manchester, Derby and Crewe, all in the U.K.; and the fifth manufacturing location if one considers also Springfield, Mass., USA (1920-1930). 

The GBP 60 million home of RR motor cars in Goodwood, less than 10 miles from West Wittering, the home of the company founder Sir Frederick Henry Royce (1917 until his death in 1933), who shared many contacts with the 8th Duke of Richmond and Gordon, owner of Goodwood Estate (i.e. the grandfather of today’s´ Lord March, who will eventually inherit the title and become the 10th Duke of Richmond and Gordon). 

The new home of Rolls-Royce motor cars is a true state-of-the art building complex matching the reputation of the world’s most prestigious car brand. It has been designed by one of Britain´s most celebrated architects, Sir Nicolas Grimshaw (who became also well known for the “Eden Project” in Cornwall). 

To blend with the beautiful surrounding countryside of the Goodwood Estate, it is partly sunk into the ground and covered by “Europe´s biggest green roof” of living plants.

- Key Suppliers

Sources: Rolls-Royce North America