ROLLS-ROYCE MOTOR CARS: BIOGRAPHY

1 September 2020, Goodwood, West Sussex 
 

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is the world’s pinnacle super-luxury brand. Today it is a modern and dynamic company with British heritage dating back to 1904 having been founded by two motoring pioneers whose backgrounds could scarcely have been more different.

An aristocrat with a degree in engineering from Cambridge, The Hon Charles Rolls was a trailblazer in both motoring and aviation: he set a World Land Speed Record in 1903, and seven years later became the first pilot to complete a double crossing of the English Channel. He was also a shrewd businessman, funding his twin passions by running a car sales and service depot in Fulham, London. However, virtually all the cars were imported, and Rolls was critical of Britain’s poor record in early automotive development. 

Henry Royce was of altogether humbler stock. The youngest of five children, he joined the Great Northern Railway as an apprentice at the age of 14, and quickly showed a natural talent for engineering. Seven years later, he started his own company and was soon able to afford his first motor car. However, he became so frustrated with its unreliable electrics and rough running that he decided to build himself a new one. Encouraged by his first attempt, he built two more, each an improvement on the one before. News of his successes reached Rolls in London via Claude Johnson, who arranged a meeting between the two men at the Midland Hotel, Manchester, on 4 May 1904. Captivated by Royce’s vision and engineering skill, Rolls declared he would sell every car Royce could build, under the name Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. The world’s most famous and illustrious automotive brand was born. Johnson was later affectionately nicknamed ‘the hyphen in Rolls-Royce’. Royce himself was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1918, and became Sir Henry on being created a baronet in 1930. 

Over the next 90 years, Rolls-Royce established itself as ‘the best car in the world’, the choice of Kings and Queens, heads of state, celebrities, captains of industry and stars of stage and screen. As well as epitomising luxury, the marque upheld Royce’s rigorous standards of engineering and manufacture: of all the Rolls-Royce cars ever built, around three quarters are still on the road. As a result the term ‘the Rolls-Royce of…’ become synonymous with the very best of its type.

In July 1998, Rolls-Royce opened a new chapter in its storied history when the rights to the brand were acquired by the BMW Group, which announced its intention to launch a new car, built in Britain. Thus began what came to be dubbed ‘the last great automotive adventure’.

The new company faced the task of building both a worldwide headquarters and production facility from scratch in just over four years. Its chosen site, at Goodwood in West Sussex, is in the heart of the South Downs National Park, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and close to the famous Goodwood Motor Circuit; a setting befitting of Rolls-Royce’s values and patrons’ expectations. The location chosen for the new Home of Rolls-Royce also has a powerful historical resonance, being less than 10 miles from the village of West Wittering, where Sir Henry Royce lived and worked from 1917 until his death in 1933. 

Designed by Grimshaw Architects, headed by renowned British architect Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, whose portfolio also includes the Eden Project in Cornwall, the original plant opened on 1 January 2003 at a cost of £65 million. A £10 million extension was added in 2012, with further additions in subsequent years. 

All Rolls-Royce motor cars are assembled at Goodwood, which is also home to design, R&D, communications, sales and marketing, senior management and other corporate functions. When the plant opened, it employed 200 people and produced just one car a day. Today the workforce has grown almost tenfold, and output has risen to more than 20 cars per day. In 2016, the company opened its dedicated Technology & Logistics Centre (TLC) at Bognor Regis, providing 30,000mof warehousing, storage and workshop space. This was extended in 2017 by almost 10, 000mto meet growing demand and in readiness for future models.

Today, after 116 years of continuous operation, the company remains true to Henry Royce’s famous maxim: “Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it.”

That philosophy has informed every member of the Rolls-Royce family to be created and built at the Home of Rolls-Royce, Goodwood since 2003. The marque is now the undisputed world leader for motor cars over €200,000 net. Its products marry meticulous craftsmanship with relentless – often audacious – technical innovation and define super-luxury motoring for the 21st Century.

Now in its eighth generation, Phantom launched the company in 2003, and remains the company’s pinnacle flagship product. Ghost followed in 2009, with the imposing Wraith grand tourer joining the line-up four years later followed by the four-seater Dawn convertible, which made its debut in 2015. 

In 2016 Rolls-Royce launched Wraith Black Badge and Ghost Black Badge, representing a dark, edgy alter-ego of the brand that catered to the taste patterns of younger patrons. In 2017, Sweptail was publicly unveiled. This was the realisation of one client’s coachbuilt dream and prompted a revival in modern coachbuilding. Later that year, Dawn Black Badge was debuted. The eighth generation Phantom was launched in 2017 to critical acclaim, followed in 2018 by Cullinan, the marque’s transformative SUV. The following year, the Black Badge family was completed with the launch of Cullinan Black Badge. 2020 marked the arrival of the new Ghost, the most technically advanced Rolls-Royce ever created, and a worthy successor to the biggest-selling model in the marque’s history.  

Almost every car hand-built from the Goodwood plant includes some form of Bespoke personalisation. The capabilities to express the lifestyles, tastes and visions of its patrons are almost limitless, ensuring that every Rolls-Royce is a true, hand-crafted expression of its owner’s desires and dreams.

 

ENDS

FURTHER INFORMATION

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EDITORS’ NOTES

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BMW Group and is a completely separate company from Rolls-Royce plc, the manufacturer of aircraft engines and propulsion systems. Over 2,000 skilled men and women are employed at the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’ head office and manufacturing plant at Goodwood, West Sussex, the only place in the world where the company’s super-luxury motor cars are hand-built.

CO2 EMISSIONS & CONSUMPTION.

New Ghost: NEDCcorr (combined): CO2 emission: 343 g/km; Fuel consumption: 18.8 mpg / 15.0 l/100km. WLTP (combined) CO2 emission: 347-359 g/km; Fuel consumption: 17.9-18.6 mpg / 15.2-15.8 l/100km.

New Ghost Extended: NEDCcorr (combined): CO2 emission: 343 g/km; Fuel consumption: 18.8 mpg / 15.0 l/100km WLTP (combined): CO2 emission: 348-359 g/km; Fuel consumption: 18-18.5 mpg / 15.3-15.7 l/100km.