Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited is a British luxury automobile maker which has operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of BMW AG since 2003 – as the exclusive manufacturer of Rolls-Royce-branded motor cars. The company's administrative and production headquarters are located on the 42-acre (17 ha) Goodwood Estate in Goodwood, West Sussex, England, United Kingdom.
From 1906 to 2003, motor cars were manufactured and marketed under the Rolls-Royce brand by Rolls-Royce Motors. The Rolls-Royce Motor Cars subsidiary of BMW AG has no direct relationship to Rolls-Royce-branded vehicles produced before 2003, other than having briefly supplied components and engines. The Bentley Motors Limited subsidiary of Volkswagen AG is the direct successor to Rolls-Royce Motors and various other predecessor entities that produced Rolls-Royce and Bentley branded cars between the foundation of each company and 2003, when the BMW-controlled entity started producing cars under the Rolls-Royce brand.
The BBC called Rolls-Royce "probably one of the most recognised icons in the world", and that "the name Rolls-Royce entered the English language as a superlative."
The company's line of vehicles includes the Phantom, a four-door saloon first offered in 2003 as well as its extended wheelbase two-door coupé and convertible variants; the smaller Ghost four-door saloon; Wraith two-door coupé; Dawn convertible; the Cullinan SUV, and the forthcoming 2023 Spectre, the first all-electric Rolls-Royce.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited was created as a wholly owned subsidiary of BMW in 1998 after BMW licensed the rights to the Rolls-Royce brand name and logo from Rolls-Royce Holdings plc, and acquired the rights to the Spirit of Ecstasy and Rolls-Royce grille shape trademarks from Volkswagen AG. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited has been manufacturing Rolls-Royce branded cars since 2003.
Although the Rolls-Royce brand has been in use since 1906, the fate of the brand diverged between 1998 and 2003. In 2003, the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars subsidiary of BMW AG, which had been a major supplier to the brand up to 2003, began manufacturing vehicles with the Rolls-Royce name. Volkswagen AG took ownership of the Bentley name as well as previous Rolls-Royce production facilities and previous Rolls-Royce designs.
Current chief executive Torsten Müller-Ötvös joined the company in January 2010, with a pledge to regain the quality standards that made Rolls-Royce famous. That year sales in China increased by 600%, making it the company's second largest market after the US.
On October 5, 2023, Rolls-Royce announced that Müller-Ötvös will be retiring as CEO on November 30 after 14 years. He will be succeeded by Chris Brownridge, the current CEO of BMW UK, who will become the company's new CEO on December 1, 2023. Müller-Ötvös was the company's longest serving CEO to date.
In 1998, Vickers decided to sell Rolls-Royce Motors. The most likely buyer was BMW, which already supplied engines and other components for Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars, but BMW's final offer of £340 million was beaten by Volkswagen's £430 million ($703 million).
A stipulation in the ownership documents of Rolls-Royce dictated that Rolls-Royce Holdings plc, the aero-engine maker, would retain certain essential trademarks, including the Rolls-Royce brand name and logo if the automotive division was sold. Although Vickers plc sold the vehicle designs, nameplates, administrative headquarters, production facilities, Spirit of Ecstasy and Rolls-Royce grille shape trademarks to Volkswagen AG, Rolls-Royce plc chose to license the Rolls-Royce name and logo to BMW AG for £40 million ($66 million), because Rolls-Royce plc had recently had joint business ventures with BMW.
BMW's contract to supply engines and components to Rolls-Royce Motors allowed BMW to cancel the contract with 12 months' notice. Volkswagen would be unable to re-engineer the Rolls-Royce and Bentley vehicles to use other engines within that time frame. With the Rolls-Royce brand identification marks split between the two companies and Volkswagen's engine supply in jeopardy, the two companies entered into negotiations. Volkswagen agreed to sell BMW the Spirit of Ecstasy and grille shape trademarks and BMW agreed to continue supplying engines and components until 2003. Volkswagen continued to produce Rolls-Royce branded vehicles between 1998 and 2003. This gave BMW time to build a new Rolls-Royce administrative headquarters and production facility on the Goodwood Estate near Chichester, West Sussex, and develop the Phantom, the first Rolls-Royce from the new company. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited became the exclusive manufacturer of Rolls-Royce branded cars in 2003. Rolls-Royce announced in September 2014 that a new technology and logistics centre would be built, which opened in 2016, 8 miles away from the main headquarters, in the seaside resort town of Bognor Regis.
Rolls-Royce's first all-electric car, and its most aerodynamic, the Spectre coupe, is scheduled to begin sales in 2023. It has begun the brand's most demanding testing program in its history, with 2.5 million kilometres, from everyday use to the harshest climates around the world, having already completed tests in Sweden, just 55 kilometres from the Arctic Circle, at temperatures around −40 ˚C and on glacial surfaces.
The Spectre will also introduce a redesigned Spirit of Ecstasy, with one leg forward, a lower, powerful stance, and more realistic, but aerodynamic robes (commonly mistaken as wings).
The all-time high record of sales (beginning in 2005) was achieved in 2022, at 6,021 cars, topping 2018 sales by 1,914 cars. In 2011, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited sold 3,538 cars, an increase of 31 percent compared to 2010, beating the previous sales record from 1978. The strong sales growth occurred in the Asia Pacific region, Britain and the Middle East with sales increases of 47 percent, 30 percent and 23 percent respectively.
In 2014, the company designed a silver coloured Rolls-Royce-themed Paddington Bear statue—"The Spirit of Paddington"—which was located in Berkeley Square Gardens (one of fifty located around London prior to the release of the film Paddington), which was auctioned to raise funds for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
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