Rolls-Royce was a luxury car manufacturer that was created in 1973. The brand itself was in use from 1906 but the British brand is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the German BMW AG. The Rolls-Royce vehicles have been synonymous with luxury, prestige and high-class society.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars are known worldwide for their supreme quality and precise hand craftsmanship. Each detail is finely attended to which is why they’ve built a strong reputation with consumers. Even today’s models build upon the traditions of the past. They continue to offer effortless power, smooth rides and a pleasant silence that customers desire.
A Brief History
In the Beginning
In the early 20th-century, a partnership began that changed the face of automobiles. Charles Rolls, the owner of the UK’s first dealerships and Henry Royce, a successful engineer agreed to sell cars under the company name ‘Rolls-Royce.’
They achieved worldwide success after receiving ‘The Best Car in the World’ status in 1907 for the Silver Ghost. This was due in part to the trip it made from London to Glasgow a total of 27 times. All in all, the car racked up 14,371 consecutive miles which was the longest non-stop motor run ever in the world. This demonstrated that the Rolls-Royce wasn’t just comfortable, but also reliable. By 1925, however, the Silver Ghost was phased out and replaced with the Phantom I. This model was sold in both the United States and the UK.
The 1920s marked a period when the Rolls-Royce company focused on aviation engineering. They opened a factory in Massachusetts after World War I. During this time; the R engine set a new world air speed record.
Then, in the 30s, Rolls-Royce broke records on land and sea. The land speed record was broke in 1933 by Sir Malcolm Campbell. He traveled 272.46 mph with Bluebird. Then, four years later, George Eyston beat him with the Thunderbolt going 312.2 mph. The Thunderbolt was a motor car that was powered by two R engines.
As far as sea records, Sir Henry Segrave broke the record in Miss England II at 119 mph. This vessel was also engineered with R engines. Just moments after the race, Sir Henry was killed when he collided with a submerged tree stump.
The company also improved the Phantom II’s chassis to appeal to the middle-class market. Not long after, they launched the Rolls-Royce Phantom III with their first ever V12 engine.
1940s – 1960s
During the 1940s, Rolls-Royce spent a good amount of time perfecting the design and craftsmanship of their vehicles. Through 1959, every Silver Wraith constructed had an individual, coach-built body. This made the bodies heavy and required the use of a 4,887cc engine to deal with the weight.
When the Silver Dawn arrived, it was the first Rolls-Royce that came with a standard steel body. This was a lighter design than the Silver Wrath and was a pioneering first for the company. There are still a few of the coach-built models available today and they are highly collectible.
In the 50s, Rolls-Royce began their relationship with the royal family. Daimler had previously been the motor car choice for the monarchy until Princess Elizabeth order the first Phantom IV in 1950. It’s one of the rarest in the world and the company only produced 18.
In 1955, they released the Silver Cloud. It was capable of 106 mph and designed by JP Blatchley. It had the same 4,887cc engine that the Silver Dawn had but it featured a newly developed steel body. Towards the end of the decade, the Phantom V made its appearance. It had a coach-built body and was equipped with a V8 engine.
During the Sixties, Rolls-Royce worked to appeal to a new owner. Celebrities, rock stars, and actors chose to use the brand as a way to establish their success. There was even a movie, “The Yellow Rolls-Royce” created in 1965 featuring Ingrid Bergman, Rex Harrison, and Omar Sharif.
John Lennon also purchased a Phantom V. He repainted it a matte black and then added a colorful design. To this day, it’s still one of the most valuable pieces of pop memorabilia.
1970s – 1980s
In the 70s, Rolls-Royce Motors Limited introduced the Corniche. It was a two-door design based upon the Silver Shadow. They were hand-built by Mulliner Park Ward as either a convertible or hardtop. Only 1,306 were manufactured. He also built the Camargue on the Silver Shadow platform. It was the first Rolls-Royce to offer automatic split-level air conditioning.
The Silver Shadow II saw a revival with new wrap-around black bumpers, improved handling, and an air dam located below the front of the car.
In 1980, Vickers purchased Rolls-Royce Motors Limited. They were a British defense company who produces the luxury line alongside Bentley vehicles. Rolls-Royce was also back in the spotlight with a record-breaking performance. In 1983, the company broke another land-speed record with 633.468 mph. The vehicle was powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon 302 jet engine.
In 1985, the company floated on the London Stock Exchange. Then, in 1998 Rolls-Royce was put on the market by Vickers. While it appeared BMW was going to take the company, the Volkswagen Group put in a higher bid and won the deal. With this deal, Volkswagen earned the rights to the shape of the radiator grille and the “Spirit of Ecstasy” mascot. The logo and brand name were controlled by Rolls-Royce the aero-engine maker who decided to license that to BMW instead. This was an awkward situation since BMW had the name, but lacked any rights to the mascot and grille while Volkswagen had those but lacked rights to the name. This left them without the chance to build any cars.
Everything worked out in favor of BMW. That’s because they could withdraw their engine supply with only 12 months’ notice, but VW couldn’t.
Rolls-Royce in the Modern Age
Once negotiations were finalized, both VW and BMW came to a solution. From 1998 through 2002, BMW supplied the engines, but in return they allowed VW to use the name and logo. In 2003, BMW took over but was only able to name their cars Rolls-Royce while VW took over the Bentley division.
The final Rolls-Royce made in the Crewe factory occurred in 2002. That factory then became strictly focused on Bentley vehicles. Rolls-Royce production relocated to Goodwood, England and the name changed to Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
There are numerous vehicles that Rolls-Royce produced which were well-known. Here are just a few.
In 2006, the company stated that it would develop the Ghost. This four-door sedan started production in 2010 and was smaller than previous automobiles the company made. About 20% of the components were sourced from a BMW F01 7-Series. In 2014, an upgraded Ghost Series II was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show. It had an updated interior, complete front facelift and LED headlights.
In 2013, the company launched the Wraith at the Geneva Motor Show. This luxury coupe commemorated the original Wraith from 1938 and 1939. It was a coupe version of the Ghost and features a sleek roofline plus long bonnet. The twin-turbocharged V12 engine produced 623 horsepower.
In 2015, the company handmade this four-seat convertible and unveiled it at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
Released at the Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, the Phantom was the first car from Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited in 2003. It featured a 6.75-liter V12 engine that was sourced from BMW while the other components were unique to this model.
There were several variations of the Phantom, including, the Phantom Extended Wheelbase, Drophead Coupe, which was a convertible, and the regular Coupe.
Safety and Crash Ratings
While there is little information regarding crash and safety ratings of the Rolls-Royce brand, there is plenty of safety equipment in their vehicles. Many of the features are taken from the BMW 7 Series. Most modern models feature airbags for the passenger and driver as well as side impact airbags. There are also overhead airbags which protect heads in case of a rollover.
Seatbelt pretensioners automatically tighten the belt during a collision. Vehicles also come with anti-whiplash headrests that cradle the head during a crash. Parking sensors utilize cameras on the front bumper and side cameras for unobstructed views of the road. The top view camera allows drivers to park and reverse with ease.
There are also several driver assists like the Night Vision which uses an infrared camera mounted on the grille. This system detects animals or people up to 328 feet away. When something is spotted, the system alerts the driver and primes the braking system. There’s also a lane departure warning system and lane assist. In addition, the satellite-guided transmission prepares for upcoming turns and expressway on-ramps.
Security features of the Rolls-Royce brand include vehicle intrusion detection, ignition disabling device, and a retractable Spirit of Ecstasy when tampered with.
Considering that the Ford F-150 sells more trucks in a couple of days than Rolls-Royce sells in a year, there are few recalls that occur with the brand. With that said, there was a time that Rolls-Royce recalled one vehicle. It was for a 2015 Ghost that might have had a fault with the front airbags.
Most likely, it was a record-setting recall and was corrected quickly, without incident.
Consumer Satisfaction Reports & Dependability Ratings
The average global age customer for Rolls-Royce is 45 years old which is down from the previous average of 56 years old. In fact, that number is lower than the average age of most cars buyers. According to Automobile News, the average car buyer is 51.7 years old.
In 2018, the Rolls-Royce Phantom received UK’s Car of the Year Award for ‘Best Luxury Car.’ This award involved a jury of 27 motoring journalists.
The company is also listed as one of the top 10 corporate allies of 2018 with the British LGBT Awards. The executive vice president, Warrick Matthews from Rolls-Royce Control Systems heads up the initiative. He leads a global team of 2,000 people and promotes LGBT inclusion with about 55,000 colleagues in the company.
Spirit of Ecstasy
Early Rolls-Royce motorcars didn’t have radiator mascots like today. Instead, they were adorned with a Rolls-Royce emblem. Sculptor Charles Robinson Sykes was commissioned to work on a mascot for Montagu’s personal 1909 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. He used Eleanor Velasco Thornton as a model for the design.
The original design showed her in a fluttering robe with a finger pressed against her lips. This symbolized the secret love affair. This figurine earned the name The Whisper and is now on display at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu. There were a total of three or four of these castings produced, but only two are known to have survived.
The Modern Ornament
By 1910, Rolls-Royce became concerned that these ornaments were inappropriate for cars. Claude Johnson was tasked with creating a more graceful mascot instead. He went back to Sykes to create something that signified the spirit of the luxury brand.
Johnson wanted to use the beauty of Nike, who was often admired in The Louvre. Sykes didn’t take that route as he felt the ornament should be more feminine.
Instead, he used the original design of The Whisper for inspiration. The first model earned the name “The Spirit of Speed.” Later, it earned the title, “Spirit of Ecstasy.”
Royce originally listed the ornament as an option, but it ended up on most cars. In the early 1920s, it became a standard fitting. From 1911 through 1914, the ornament was silver plated. Gold-plated varieties were available as an option.
In the 1930s, Sykes was asked to design a lower version for the sports saloons. He unveiled a kneeling lady in 1934. It was eventually replaced with a smaller, standing emblem instead.
Now known as the Spirit of Ecstasy, the ornament goes by several names. These include “Silver Lady,” “Flying Lady,” and “Emily.” The modern design stands 3 inches tall and is mounted on a spring-loaded mechanism. This allows it to retract into the radiator shell if touched from any direction. There’s also a button inside the vehicle that raises or lowers the emblem.
Today, she is made from stainless steel that is highly polished, stainless steel with a 24-carat gold plating or from illuminated frosted crystal. There are also some aftermarket versions available including diamond studded or matte black.
Who Owns Rolls-Royce? Snapshot of the Company
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is a British-based luxury automaker. It’s owned wholly by the German BMW group since 1998. BMW acquired the rights to the logo and brand name from Rolls-Royce plus the Spirit of Ecstasy and grill shape trademarks from Volkswagen AG.
They operate the administrative and production facility directly across from the Goodwood Circuit located in Goodwood, West Sussex, England. It’s been open since 2003.
The record for highest sales was set in 2014 with 4,063 cars. The strongest sales increases have been in Britain, the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific region.
In 2017, the company sold 3,362 vehicles in almost 50 countries. This was done without the Phantom. During this time, the Americas retained the top-selling region. China’s sales were also up 40% when compared to 2016.
The original Rolls-Royce company is now known as Rolls-Royce Holdings and they are an incorporated public limited company since 2011. They design, manufacture, and distribute the power systems for various aviation developments. They’re currently the world’s second-largest aircraft engine manufacturer. In addition, they have business in the energy sector as well as marine propulsion.
In 2011 and 2012, Rolls-Royce Holdings was the world’s 16th-largest defense contractor by revenue.
Aside from the Spirit of Ecstasy, Rolls-Royce has a logo which consists of two “R”s. This reflects the Rolls and the Royce of the company. The hyphen between their name indicates the strong bond of the founders. Even though it’s been a simple design, it’s memorable and shows their strength.
The sign features a rectangular form that has curved edges. This gives a sophisticated and professional look. Then, the title is enclosed inside a rectangular shape, giving it a symmetrical appearance. There are three frames to the logo. The first is in the center and quite large while the others are smaller in size.
The blue color of the logo stands for boldness and goodwill. The company states that the blue color also represents excellence, grace, and class. The white is for purity, nobility, and elegance.
While most automakers target a broad range of customers, Rolls-Royce only cares about a small segment of people. They’ve been known to focus all their marketing toward potential customers who have liquid assets over $30 million. That means they have to target their customers in a very different way than Ford would.
To get their customers, Rolls-Royce uses some unique marketing approaches. Potential customers get invited to exclusive dinners where the contacts are set and deals are struck. Then, once they are drivers of the brand, they get access to some additional perks. Many of them receive letters from the CEO from time to time or coffee-table books about the brand. Whatever makes the customer feel special is what the company will do. That way, they’ll want to replace their vehicle with a newer one at some point.
Their marketing strategy works because about a third of their business is a repeat customer.
While Rolls-Royce isn’t typically known for motorsports, they’ve been involved with an Alpine run. It started in 1913 with the Rolls-Royce Alpenfahrt. This contest covered 19 different Alpine passes. Just keep in mind that back then, the majority of them were dirt covered so it was quite the task.
Even know they still recreate the event. While you are welcome to use a Rolls-Royce in the race, it’s encouraged to use an older model.
The Rolls-Royce Museum is privately owned and located in Dornbirn, Vorarlberg, Austria. It’s been around in 1982 but didn’t open to the public until 1999. It’s found in the former factory owned by F. M. Hämmerle.
The collection contains over 1,000 objects and about 70 cars. This makes it the world’s most extensive selection of vehicles from Rolls-Royce.
In addition to that, there’s a Rolls-Royce Museum in the United States located in Mechanicsburg, PA. The collection is housed in a modest 5,000-square foot facility. They offer a changing exhibition of both Rolls-Royce and Bentley vehicles. There’s also a research library on site as well as a functioning garage where technical seminars are offered from professionals.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Financial Services is a division of BMW Financial Services. They are currently located in Hilliard, OH. They pride themselves on offering solutions that are as unique as their motorcars. In addition, the company tailors each experience to the personal needs of the new owner, whether it’s for new or pre-owned purchases.
They offer leasing and purchasing options, as well as several protection plans. Some protection plans include tire and wheel protection, dent protection, windshield protection, and lease protection. Their unique Guaranteed Auto Protection gives you additional coverage in an accident, natural disaster, or because of theft. If your insurance company only gives you the amount of the assessed value, Rolls-Royce covers the difference owed on your financial agreement. This has a cap of $50,000.
Rolls-Royce dealerships work a little different than most auto dealers. First, customers are taken to the Commissioning Suite. It’s in this room that they’re allowed to create their car. They alter it down to the smallest detail. It starts with picking the color, and the company offers 40,000 varying shades.
If the customer still doesn’t find something they like, Rolls-Royce will create a custom color just for them. Then, two halves of the Rolls-Royce are put together to find an excellent match. This is done with a unique lamp that mimics the sunlight at the owner’s hometown so you can view the color in natural color.
Once that is complete, the customer chooses leather from most any animal, the sort of embroidery they desire and the color of the car’s stitching. This makes the possibilities of varying combinations endless. That’s why it’s possible that there aren’t two Rolls-Royce cars that are exactly alike.
6 Interesting Facts about Rolls-Royce
1 – Champagne flutes are a factory option on vehicles.
2 – Rolls Royce still makes the world’s best jet engines. They power things from Gulfstreams and British Harriers to 777s.
3 – Royce is credited with inventing the adjustable shock absorber while he was on his deathbed. He drew up plans to control the suspension better, gave them to his nurse, and died the following day.
4 – About 65% of all the Rolls-Royce vehicles ever built are still on the road.
5 – Each Phantom model comes with Teflon-coated umbrellas. They are made into the doors and pop out by merely touching a button.
6 – The company still hand builds every engine.