The coronavirus pandemic has presented major challenges to the whole car industry. And while the luxury end of the market has been somewhat insulated from the biggest difficulties caused by factory and showroom closures, companies operating in that sphere have still had to reinvent how they work – and it’s set to change the design focus of ultra-luxury cars.
Rolls-Royce’s Bespoke division is considered, according to chief designer Alex Innes, to be “the apex of the pinnacle”. The most prominent example of its work is the one-off Sweptail of 2017, but the division also produces highly customised versions of the Phantom, Ghost, Wraith and Dawn.
Innes and the design team work directly with ultra-wealthy customers to produce one-off designs to exacting standards.
Much of that work is done face to face, either at Rolls-Royce’s Goodwood base or with the designers travelling to meet customers, so the lockdown has forced the team to find new ways of working.
“It has been challenging, but the output hasn’t dipped from our studio,” said Innes. “We’re used to travelling a lot for work to meet with clients, so we’re used to contributing remotely.
“With our Bespoke process, we take the time to really get to know customers before we put anything into action and work directly with them in the same way you can design a house with an architect.
“Not being able to meet clients in person has been challenging, but we’ve worked around it and we’ve continued to be in near-constant dialogue with them.
“The benefit the lockdown has afforded us is the currency of time to contemplate and reflect – and we’ve noticed a similar trend with our clients. They’ve had more time to really think and engage with the coachbuild process. I’ve had lots of video chats with them to obsess over little details.”