Rolls Royce: Still The Last Word In Luxury Driving
There was a time when the stately Rolls Royce car with its distinctive curved lines and old money vibe was the last word in luxury driving. For the ultra-rich, there was only one choice. But is that still the case today in 2022?
The iconic Silver Wraith model, was the company's first design after WWII and became the ultimate status symbol. This was a car that one didn't drive oneself. To own one you needed to be not only rich enough to buy it: you had to have the money to pay someone a full-time wage to drive you around in it as well.
Is there any car that has that kind of status today? There are many super cars on the market today, but does one stand out above them all? What happened to the Silver Wraith, to the iconic Rolls Royce brand, and is it making the greatest comeback in motoring history?
Let’s find out.
Who’s buying them?
If you take a look at the celebs who've invested in the brand, and by invested we mean buying and then driving around in one, the list is long. Some of the greatest household names of the last 30 years, together with some of the most recent status-obsessed stars have all chosen to include the classic brand in their garages.
Footballing great and man about town, David Beckham, likes to be seen in a classic black Rolls Royce. Perhaps the former England captain is simply being patriotic, or more likely, he knows that nothing says class like the iconic English brand.
NBA legend and businessman, Shaquille O'Neal, drives a Rolls Royce Phantom. Shaq was one of the highest-paid athletes of all time and is a very successful investor. The man knows quality and style when he sees it.
Rappers and Hip Hip Artists
50 Cent, rapper turned actor and businessman is another celeb known for expensive tastes. In his roller coaster ride from rags to riches to rags, and back again, the star has owned his share of comfortable rides. He is another proud owner of a Phantom.
We could go on. Think Beyonce, Jay Leno, Jay Z, Gwen Stefani, and many, more, but you get the picture. The stars know status, luxury, and quality when they see it.
A brief history
The story begins in England in 1884 when Henry Royce started his electrical and mechanical business and went on to build his first motor car in 1904. He teamed up with Charles Rolls, purveyor of luxury cars, that same year and agreed to an exclusive relationship under the name of Rolls-Royce. By 1906 their car, the Silver Ghost was widely publicized as 'the best car in the world' and became synonymous with luxury driving. More models followed until the outbreak of WWI when the company entered into airplane engine production for the war effort.
From this time on the company became equally known for reliability and quality in the aerospace industry and Rolls-Royce engines are still widely used in aircraft today. In 1959 advertising guru David Ogilvy came up with a sales pitch for the car that still leaves marketers in awe today. "At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock."
It was a stroke of genius that propelled the brand to new heights. By the 1960s everyone who was anyone owned a Rolls-Royce, some even owned fleets of them. If you spotted one passing through the streets of 60s London, you knew you were in the presence of great wealth, and possibly immense fame as well.
Death of a brand
So what happened to the world's greatest car? Did the shine wear off? Did rock stars, the oil-rich, and other well-to-do types lose their taste for the chauffeur-driven experience? While these things may have played a role, the most serious blow to the brand was its insolvency in 1971. Although known to the public primarily for its cars, since WWI the main part of the business was in aerospace. A mismanaged jet engine project went disastrously over budget and forced the company into liquidation.
The UK government stepped in to nationalize the company. In 1980 the company was acquired by Vickers Limited and although it retained the name and continued to manufacture cars for the luxury market, its iconic popularity suffered something of a dip during the decades of the 80s and 90s. The last model produced by the original Rolls-Royce company was the 1971 stately and elegant Corniche.
By 1998 Vickers Limited was seeking to offload the brand and found willing buyers in both Volkswagen and BMW with the latter eventually winning the day, but due to brand licensing complications, they were unable to release their first car until 2003, a full 5 years after acquiring the brand.
Since then, however, the brand, with the same classic Spirit of Ecstasy bonnet mounted statuette, has had a change of look. The newer cars are less intended for the chauffeur-driven aristocrat and more for the uber-successful entrepreneur, celebrity, or offspring of the super-rich. Year on year the trend has been consistently on the up and up with 2021 the company's best year on record with a total of 5586 car sales in total. This represents a 49% increase on 2020 sales and is a record in the full 117-year history of the company in both modern and pre-1971 times.
In a nutshell, the brand is more popular than ever.
How much is a Rolls-Royce?
How high is a mountain? How long is a piece of string? The coach-building tradition of the Rolls-Royce company means that if it's technically possible and you have the money, you can have a car that is unique to you with anything you like built-in.
The bottom of the range starts at a modest $311,900. It's all uphill from there until you reach the summit where you will find the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail. At $28 million it is the most expensive luxury car ever created surpassing even the Bugatti La Voiture Noire at a more reasonable $25.3 million.
If you want to join the exclusive club of the Spirit of Ecstacy owners, start skipping those morning lattes, my friend. Maybe shut off the electricity in your house as well while you are at it. Dream big and one day, that smooth ride will be yours!