What is it?
“No no,” says Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce. I have just made the mistake of likening the Phantom Series II to something else within the motor industry. “It’s not a car,” he insists. “The Phantom is a luxury good. The rival is not another car; it might be jewellery, or a Swiss chalet, but not a car. The Phantom is how [the buyer] rewards themselves for a job well done, or as a gift to themselves.”
It is a car, of course. Torsten knows that, unless – and this seems unlikely – he hasn’t seen the bit on the company stationery that reads ‘Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’. But the point he’s making is a fair one: most of the usual rules don’t apply to Rolls-Royce.
What other car could you leave on sale unchanged, aside from the arrival of new body styles, for nine whole years? It’s testament to the quality of the purity of the original item that the Phantom looks and feels as good as it did at its launch in 2003.
Better, you could argue. Those looks weren’t everyone’s cup of char a decade ago, but today they’re like smoke-free pubs, or Jack Dee presenting I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue: the unfamiliar made familiar to the point of institution.
Some market forces still apply, of course. Rolls-Royce customers apparently didn’t rate the decade-old satellite navigation system, which is understandable. And the Phantom saloon’s sales curve has threatened to follow a traditional market trend: an early peak, gradually tailing back. It has been offset, however, by the growing supply of exceptionally wealthy people, which is increasing by around 10 per cent a year.