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Rolls-Royce Phantom PDF Print E-mail

A motor car you are almost certainly never going to see in Phuket, and only rarely glimpse in Bangkok, is the magnificent Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Rolls-Royce Phantom
Rolls-Royce Phantom
The history of Rolls-Royce is well-documented, but suffice it to say that C.S. Rolls, a wealthy aristocrat, and Frederick Henry Royce, an engineer and maker of electric cranes, first met in Manchester in 1904 and produced their first car, the Silver Ghost, in 1907.

Taking the almost bankrupt Bentley concern under its wing in 1931, the two marques continued side-by-side, sometimes nothing more than an exercise in badge-engineering, for another 70 years.

However, in 1998 Volkswagen’s chairman Ferdinand Piech made a bid for the company, only to out-fumbled by fellow German (although the former is from Lower Saxony, the latter Bavaria: arch-rivals), BMW boss Bernd Pischetsrieder, who made an audacious bid for the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars name, Spirit of Ecstasy hood motif and the intertwined ‘double-R’ logo.  The Rolls-Royce deal cost a fraction of the amount Piech paid for the aging Bentley factory and brand.  By a delicious irony, Pischetsrieder was ‘let go’ by BMW over the Rover debacle of 2000 and has now succeeded Dr Piech as chairman of VW.

Volkswagen continued to produce relatively small numbers of the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph, under licence from BMW, until in 2002 the new Rolls-Royce greenfield site was ready to commence production in southern England.  Located within the grounds of Goodwood House, family home of the Earl of March, the Rolls-Royce facility, while principally an assembly plant (the aluminum bodies are produced in Germany), all the intricate wood veneers, sumptuous leather upholstery and other refinements only found in a car of this stature, are all produced locally by craftsmen, many of whom were recruited from the nearby boat-building fraternity.

The aluminum bodies are transported by road from a BMW plant in southern Germany and the same purpose-built containers are used to ship the cars back and on to dealers worldwide.  Late last year, Rolls-Royce delivered its 2000th Phantom, an achievement many claimed would never be possible, because of the upheaval the original 1998 deal caused.

At the recent North America International Auto Show ( NAIAS) in Detroit, Ian Robertson, chief executive and chairman of Rolls-Royce, said what many people had never believed:  “Coming to Detroit is special, because it was right here, in January 2003, that we unveiled the Phantom to the world.  I believe we can now say confidently and unequivocally that the Phantom has re-established Rolls-Royce exactly where it ought to be – at the top of the super-luxury sedan segment.”

While the United States is by far the most successful market for the Phantom with around 50 percent of total sales, Rolls-Royce has delivered cars as far afield as South Africa, Nigeria, Chile, Bulgaria, Algeria, Poland and Uzbekistan.

Rolls-Royce Phantom
Rolls-Royce Phantom

“We retailed 796 Phantoms across the world in 2005,” said Robertson.  “For the second year running our Beverly Hills dealer sold more than any other in the world, although it was closely followed by London, Tokyo, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“To meet the demand from out customers in Asia and the Middle East, we have introduced an extended wheelbase Phantom, which offers even more space in the rear, as well as extra room for bespoke features such as fridges, wine cellars, safes, humidors and computer equipment.”

There will be the addition of a new Rolls-Royce convertible, smaller than the Phantom, but which will share much of the technology.  Production begins in 2007 and reaction from well-heeled customers has been so good, Rolls-Royce is running out of build slots.  Mr Robertson hinted, in closing, that there may be other models currently on the drawing board at Rolls-Royce: “We now have three cars, all built on the Phantom platform, but watch this space for one or two surprises later this year.”

Even Henry Royce would have been impressed at the way the company is going, more than 100 years after its creation.  It is good to know the world’s most famous luxury brand lives on.

-JH 

 

 

 
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© 2018 Jeff Heselwood. All rights reserved.
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