BMW introduces its newest model, the Rolls-Royce
Published: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 1:36 a.m.
LONDON - The new Rolls-Royce, with its familiar Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament - but the guts of a BMW - made its first public appearance Friday since the German automaker bought the legendary brand name.
The big car lived up to another Rolls-Royce tradition as well: a whopping price tag of $333,000.
With its instantly recognizable radiator grill and a 6.8-liter V-12 engine that propels it from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds, the new car - known as the Phantom - stretches 19 feet, 2 inches.
"There is certainly nothing submissive about the front of a Rolls-Royce. There shouldn't be," said Ian Cameron, the chief designer.
"We've always said this is a 120 percent car - it's a lot bigger than a normal car on the road," Cameron said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. television.
Weighing 5,478 pounds, the new Rolls-Royce features a six-speed transmission and average fuel economy of 17.1 miles per gallon.
Rolls-Royce will give the public a first close-up look Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit - a venue that emphasizes the importance of the U.S. market. The company hopes to sell a thousand cars a year, 400 of them in the United States.
Rolls-Royce has been a German-owned brand since 1998, when Volkswagen outbid BMW to buy the British automaker, its factory in Crewe in northwest England and the Bentley brand for $790 million.
However, BMW bought the Rolls-Royce name for $66 million from Rolls-Royce PLC, the aerospace company. BMW agreed to let Volkswagen continue producing Rolls-Royce cars until 2003, and the last of the Crewe-built Rolls was finished on Aug. 30.
BMW built a $100 million assembly plant at Goodwood, near Chichester, 70 miles south of London. Sir Henry Royce, who formed a partnership with Charles Rolls in 1906, lived just 10 miles from the new plant, at West Wittering.
Engines and bodies of the new Rolls-Royce are shipped from Germany to Goodwood, where the cars are painted, and the leather upholstery and wood trim is fitted.
Tony Gott, chairman and chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, said the new model was inspired by the Phantoms of the 1930s, the Silver Cloud of the 1950s and the Silver Shadow of the 1960s.
"Our aim has been to recreate the legend of Rolls-Royce, to rekindle the flame that burned so brightly in the heyday of the marque, to create a new benchmark for the automotive world, to create the Rolls-Royce of motor cars," Gott said at the news media preview.
The brand has steadily lost luster in its homeland, with sales slumping from 60 in Britain in 2001 to 29 last year.
BMWs are strong sellers in Britain, but Rolls-Royce is playing down its connection to the German giant.
"Rolls-Royce will continue to design, develop, engineer and distribute its own motor cars. The philosophy of the project team is to share the BMW Group's engineering excellence - not its parts," the company said.
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