Exuding glamour and power, it is at the same time understated, inconspicuous, designed to be hidden and indeed to almost disappear amongst the beautiful countryside that envelopes it – the perfect se ing to host those wealthy enough to commission what is perhaps the ultimate status symbol.
“How Rolls came to be here is quite a fascinating story,” Andrew Ball, Rolls-Royce’s Global Communications Manager, tells me.
“It began when BMW acquired Rolls-Royce in 1998. What they bought was e ectively a piece of paper: the names and copyright to the ying lady and the grill. They were licensed by Rolls-Royce Plc, the manufacturer of aero engines, to use the logo.”
BMW had only ve years in which to bring Rolls-Royce to market. This meant creating somewhere to build the cars, recruiting a workforce, designing a car, developing a dealer network and delivering on the promise of what was then almost 100 years of expectation. No mean feat but, as Ball explains, this was also looked upon as a “huge adventure”.
“The rest CEO of the new Rolls-Royce described it as the last great adventure in automotive history. I think that’s true; never again will we see an event like this, where a brand that is such a byword for excellence is kick-started again.
“It was made very clear to me when I joined the company that we must never give the impression that BMW owns the history of Rolls- Royce. They are custodians of the brand. The history of the modern day Rolls-Royce started on 1 January 2003, when the company was launched, and we celebrate and cherish the long history of Rolls- Royce and reference it regularly, but don’t pretend that BMW owns 112 years of history. So, from the beginning of the deal, there was a very respectful way of talking about it.”
Maintaining the authenticity of this uniquely British product was always going to be the chief priority, and it was made clear that the cars could only ever be built in Britain.
Prior to BMW acquiring Rolls there had been a long period of under investment in the company; indeed, Ball goes as far as stating that “the products of the late 1990s were, perhaps, not as be ing to the brand as they had been in previous decades.”
The BMW deal not only brought Rolls-Royce much needed investment, but involved the German company working very closely with all parties, including the enthusiast clubs, to understand the essence of the company – what makes you know that a car is a Rolls Royce when you sit in it.
The next step was to nd Rolls a new home. This was a particularly thorough process. There had been six previous homes, the last one being Crewe, which is now the home of Bentley. Unsurprisingly, a number of UK councils were eager to host Rolls-Royce, but the existing association of BMW motor sport with Goodwood’s Festival ofSpeed and Lord March, made Sussex a frontrunner. It was eventually decided that the new Rolls manufacturing plant head office would be at Goodwood. This decision, Ball explains, was certainly not without its challenges.
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