Αποστολέας Θέμα: Dream Cars - Rolls Royce ('Ονειρα θερινής νυχτός)  (Αναγνώστηκε 1107 φορές)

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Dream Cars - Rolls Royce ('Ονειρα θερινής νυχτός)
« στις: Οκτώβριος 07, 2006, 12:43:36 πμ »
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars are now owned by BMW of Germany, but based at Goodwood, Chichester, West Sussex.

Rolls-Royce may no longer be British but at least the brand is in good wealthy hands. The only current production models, the Phantom which is available in two overall lengths, is assembled in Britain by UK workers at a environmentally friendly, purpose built headquarters near Goodwood.

Just to set the scene and a glossary of events in the life to date of Rolls-Royce: Mr Rolls and Mr Royce met for lunch in Manchester in 1904 and the product of that meeting was a 10 horsepower car that made its debut at the Paris Motor Show in December the same year. However it was not until 1907 that the Silver Ghost came along and started the Rolls-Royce brand. Models such as the Silver Cloud and best selling Silver Shadow followed.

In 102 years around 100,000 Rolls-Royce motor cars have been built and experts speculate that at least 60 per cent of them are still in existence, surprising when you consider that many vehicles saw action in both world wars.

In the 1920s Rolls-Royce became involved in aircraft engine design and manufacture and that brand still lives today under separate ownership.

In 1931 Rolls-Royce bought their great British rival Bentley and the two brands sat alongside each other for nearly 70 years.

In 1971 the constant redevelopment of the RB211 aero engine caused the financial downfall of the company but the British Government stepped in to protect to RR Aero Division and nationalised the whole company before off-loading it to the defence manufacturer Vickers in 1980.

Eventually in 1997 Vickers put both RR and Bentley car brands up for sale attracting interest from BMW, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz.  After considerable double dealing, squabbling and eventually compromises between the parties involved, in 1998 VW ended up the Bentley brand and ownership of the Crewe manufacturing facilities, BMW bought only the Rolls-Royce brand for £40 million and Mercedes-Benz went off to re-launch the famous German Maybach name on its own luxury new car and to join with Chrysler to become DaimlerChrysler.  BMW had been involved with Vickers prior to this purchase with body and subframe development for RR.

The final deals it turned out were not straight forward because it ended up with VW being able to use the RR trademark until 31 December 2002 with BMW supplying components for the Silver Seraph and Bentley Arnage until that time. On 1st January 2003 BMW could market a Rolls-Royce for the first time.

From buying the RR brand to actually being able to sell their own first Rolls-Royce car gave BMW just 4.5 years, not only to design and build a new car, the Phantom, but to find a UK production site, build a factory and headquarters, recruit 500 staff and set up a 74 strong worldwide dealer network, six of which are in the UK.  The headquarters of course had to reflect the premium brand status that Rolls-Royce had enjoyed. Customers arriving from all over the world at RR have to be impressed by the surroundings and the service they get.

The 42 acre site was secured at Goodwood because of BMWs relationship with Lord Charles March and their participation in the famous Goodwood Festival of Speed. Supported enthusiastically in getting planning approval by the local authorities and by the Chichester community, building work started in August 2001. The facility was built at a cost of £65 million, not including the cost of the land that is still leased from Lord March. The location is ideally close to Southampton where 90 per cent of production is shipped from for worldwide destinations. The location is also relatively close to the Channel Tunnel which is used by transport bringing the aluminium space frame bodyshells, engines and transmissions from BMW plants in Germany.  Other components are supplied from countries around the world and of course the UK. The Phantom is truly a world car.

Unbelievably the first pre-production car came off the line in July 2002 and the Phantom was launched to the public in January 2003.  Worldwide sales of the Phantom in its first year were 300 units. That grew to 790 cars in 2005, the highest number of Rolls-Royce cars sold in a year for 15 years. In November last year RR introduced an extended wheelbase version of the Phantom. This year RR expects to sell around 800 vehicles. Nobody in the history of the car industry has sold a car of this price, from around £260,000 on the road, in such numbers says RR.  Interestingly it outsells the Maybach three to one.

The largest single market for RR is the USA that accounts for 50 per cent of all sales. Next in line is the Middle East followed by Great Britain where 100 Phantoms are sold each year, but emerging markets such as Japan and China are closing the gap.

So who buys a Rolls-Royce in this day and age? The company says it tends to be self-made entrepreneurs or family businesses rather than big corporations who feel it is not sending out the right signals for executives to be chauffeur driven in such expensive vehicles. However senior executives do buy the Phantom with their own money. Sports stars, celebrities, film stars, Royals and entrepreneurs who want the finer things in life are customers and the things they all have in common is they are interested in cars and are wealthy say RR.

The average age of the owner has reduced since BMW took ownership of the brand, now early 50’s, 10 year younger than before and say Rolls-Royce each owner is likely to have at least 30 million US dollars in the bank, not including property.

With such a widespread type of customers from all parts of the world, no Phantom is exactly the same so there is no definitive retail price as such.  A standard length model in the UK, on the road with all taxes costs around £260,000 and an extended version around £300,000. There are so many different combinations of Phantom specification, although they all share the same 6.75-litre, V12, all aluminium, 453hp, 720Nm, direct injection petrol engine and six-speed automatic transmission. There are over 45,000 different exterior bodywork colours, numerous colours of leather upholstery and six different veneer woods with 12 variables of those. One customer even supplied his own wood from his own forest. Levels of equipment differ widely and can include anything from a safe to a humidor, more or less anything is possible and armoured versions are likely in the future. Each Phantom takes three to four months to be built to order.
Talking about the future? The Rolls-Royce 100Ex experimental convertible has been doing the rounds of the world automotive shows since early in 2004 and this will now go into production for sale in the second quarter of 2007. We could be seeing the final production version at the Detroit Show in January and at the Geneva Show in March and it could be called the Corniche. The 101EX Coupe design concept has also been shown and is currently touring world shows but no final decision on whether this model will be produced has been made.

However just a week ago at the Paris Show the company did confirm they are to design and build a new and slightly smaller model series of Rolls-Royce to sell below the Phantom and this range will also be built at Goodwood. Currently the company has a planning appeal with their local authority to increase the working hours allowed at their production headquarters to accommodate building more models.  The new range is expected to be introduced in 2010 and educated guesses at the price suggest upwards of £175,000.

What of the Rolls Royce headquarters facility set in an area of outstanding natural beauty in the South Downs?

The 42 acre site was a former gravel pit but now it is hidden from public view by maturing trees, grassed banks and so forth. Over 400,000 trees, bushes and shrubs have been planted and lakes formed as the habitat for wildlife. In time the whole site will grow and develop into natural parkland.  There are no noise and no emissions from the building.

The core of the building is a steel frame cladded with Cedarwood with huge glass windows covered by louvers. Topping it all off is an eight acre living roof of grass and wild plants so even from the air the headquarters blends with the South Downs.  Water and waste are recycled for an environmentally friendly and ecological solution.

Inside this state of the art facility there are head offices for the headquarters staff and of course the 15-metre high vehicle assembly halls. There are no heavy presses, no robots and no noisy tools just quiet operatives going about their work assembling vehicles from components delivered on a just in time basis to the site.  Although the bodyshells arrive from Germany already primed the remaining six layers of paint and lacquer are applied in this facility.

The woodtrim section does manufacturer all the 56 different parts needed for each car and each car has its own set specific to customer requirements. Each set uses 10 square metres of 0.6mm thick veneer that could be, Walnut from California or even Elm from the UK.

Each Phantom has 400 pieces of leather in it for the upholstery and trim using 17 to 18 hides per car. The leather comes from German Bavarian bulls, as they are larger, or sometimes from other bulls reared in Argentina or South Africa. A little known fact is that Rolls-Royce leather craftsmen only use bull hide, hide from cows they consider is of no use because it contains stretch marks!

At the end of the assembly line each car is given a shake, rattle and rolling road test before a final road test prior to dispatch.

There we have it but what is it like to drive a Rolls-Royce Phantom?

It is a big vehicle, 5.8 metres (over 19 feet) in length, it is nearly two metres wide and 1.6 metres high and it weighs in at 2.5 tonnes (unladen) and 3.05 tonnes (gross vehicle weight).

It is stately, it handles in stately manner with its magic car air suspension that gives supreme comfort and yet remains acceptably precise in the handling department. This generally a quiet car. You cannot hear the engine at all at tickover only the power available dial shows you the engine is running. There is so little engine or road noise transmitted into the car that the wind noise seems high at motorway speeds.

The engine is big and powerful as it needs to be but a top speed of 149mph with a 0-60mph time of 5.7 seconds proves this care has teeth when needed. For the records the official combined fuel consumption is 17.8mpg, our test drive around the West Sussex roads showed 14.7mpg on the computer.

The build quality is of course superb, typically the best of British which is combined with the engineering excellence of BMW.

The interior is roomy, spacious enough for five large adults with boot space to match. The extended variants offer even more legroom. Access to the rear is very easy as the rear doors ‘coach doors’ that open to the rear.  You just need to learn the knack of making a dignified exit from the vehicle.

It is pointless listing exactly what Rolls-Royce supply as standard equipment for this car, it would take all day, suffice to say the owner will want for nothing and of course any added item can be fitted – at a price.

This probably is overall the finest car built today.

Should you be interested in more detailed information on the history, the eventual takeover of Rolls-Royce and the new ownership of the brand, I can recommend an excellent book entitled The Goodwood Phantom written by Malcolm Tucker and published by Dalton Watson Fine Books.

MILESTONES. Roll-Royce Phantom. Price: around £260,000.

Engine: BMW  6.74-litre, V12, 48 valves direct injection petrol, 453bhp, 720Nm of torque, (600Nm from just 1,000rpm).Transmission: Six speed automatic with drive to the rear wheels. Performance: 149mph, 0-60mph 5.7 seconds, average fuel consumption 17.8mpg (14.7mpg actual), CO2 385g/km. VED Band G.

For: Elegance, refinement, supreme quality, faster and more nimble than you might expect, roomy.

Against: Wind noise, floating ride.


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