Autocar's impression of how a future Rolls-Royce SUV could look
Rolls-Royce is in ‘very healthy profit’ and on schedule to sell 4000 cars this year, which would be a record for the brand under BMW ownership.
Although BMW does not break out the financial results for its super-luxury division, it’s estimated that the maker will bank around £500m in profit for 2014.
This is remarkable turnaround for a company that sold just 1002 cars in 2009 and, effectively, a quadrupling of the size of the maker in just five years.
A Rolls-Royce source told Autocar that the Goodwood-based company is now financing its own product development from profits and if it went ahead with an SUV model it would not need to draw funds from the BMW Group to pay for the project.
First of the ground-up new, self-financing, models is the next-generation Phantom, for which engineering work is currently underway.
The source also revealed that serious sketching work began on the Rolls-Royce SUV earlier this year: “The early design sketches – which we viewed on the design studio’s power wall – showed just how challenging it is to re-imagine a Rolls Royce in the SUV format. However, the most recent design work is showing great promise”.
Despite this, the SUV project is still some way from becoming a serious, costed proposal which is fit to be considered by the main BMW board.
The source confirmed that the next-generation Phantom and Ghost models would both be available with a BMW-sourced hybrid transmission, but a Rolls-Royce powered solely by electricity is now highly unlikely.
The 102EX prototype – which was powered by a 145Kw electric motor and a very large 71kWh battery pack – was sent on a world tour by Rolls-Royce but company sources told Autocar that it did not receive a single customer request for the concept to be put into production.
More surprisingly, Rolls Royce also had a fully engineered and costed plan to build a diesel version of the Phantom. Insiders says that the car had “an effectively inaudible” installation of a BMW-derived engine and “impressive” levels of torque-driven performance.
At an estimated cost of 30m Euros, the diesel project would also have been a remarkably cost-effective way of improving Roll’s overall CO2 fleet performance. However the project was killed off by significant hostility from potential and existing Rolls-Royce owners.
Asked whether the maker is considering short-run bespoke models, which could make use of the carbonfibre composite technology pioneered by the BMW i3, the source told Autocar that it had been approach by a very small number of customers interested in commissioning a completely bespoke Rolls-Royce.
The company is currently exploring the feasibility of one-off models for these potential customers, but early estimates suggest that – including the costs of crash tests and homologation – the final bill could be as high as “five or six million dollars”.
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