How the cars are meticulously crafted in the UK
No longer is it simply a case of expensive means deluxe. Time, authenticity, adaptability, rarity and a compelling narrative are key to driving the success stories of 21st century brands. This is especially true in the automotive industry, where the 115-year-old British car maker Rolls-Royce is proving that even with its sense of unmistakable classicism, majesty and stateliness, it is now successfully broadening its customer base.
Since 2010, the average age of the Rolls-Royce customer has dropped 23 per cent from 56 years old to 43. The brand has long been a national byword for excellence – but you need more than history to sell to today’s generation of young, self-confident entrepreneurs. A new range of cars certainly helps, with the Dawn convertible, Wraith coupé, and the Cullinan, the brand’s first SUV, among them.
Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös says: “Luxury is no longer an urban concept. More and more, it is about embracing and experiencing the wider world. Our customers are extraordinary people who live extraordinary lives. They are smart entrepreneurs, clever business people and connoisseurs of taste; and they are looking for deeper, more meaningful experiences with their brands of choice.
“When it comes to luxury goods, they want items that tell their own personal story. We encourage our customers to come to the company’s headquarters in Goodwood and sit with our designers, craftspeople and engineers to create their own personal Rolls-Royce. In doing so, they have not shopped, they have commissioned.”
Visiting the Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood, tucked away in the glorious surrounds of the Sussex countryside in the UK, there is no better example to demonstrate this new transitional taste for the younger buyer. With an appreciation for art, design and attention to detail, a visit to the building designed by architect Nicholas Grimshaw provides us with a rewarding glimpse into the meticulous process of creating one of the world’s most expensive automobiles.
Set amongst perfectly-manicured lawns and strictly-trimmed trees and shrubs, the custom-built cedar-clad factory is a must for anyone who seeks to understand the very highest levels of craftsmanship, refinement and success. You enter a different world of car manufacturing – in the absence of automated production lines, building on a large scale, experienced artisans who are trained for a specific task have a dedicated timeframe, where the emphasis is on precision and perfection, rather than quantity. Specialist leather, stacks of delicate thin wood veneers and an array of colours are key highlights of the tour.
This idea of “commissioning,” as Müller-Ötvös describes it, is complemented by cutting-edge marketing ideas, intended to appeal to a younger crowd. Recently, Rolls-Royce enlisted the help of acclaimed British photographer and filmmaker Rankin for a promotional creative campaign, starring Game of Thrones actress Gwendoline Christie. Then in 2017, Mercury Music Prize winner Skepta turned a brand-new Rolls-Royce Phantom into a rolling recording studio, demoing the track ‘Skepta RR’ after making a beat and vocals all from the back seat. “I stepped in the car and there was no need to think,” said Skepta. “It was like sitting in first class on a plane, minus the noise. Comfortable and silent, a perfect space to make music.”
As soon as the coach doors close shut in a Rolls-Royce, there is a sense of privacy, sanctuary and inner solace. Each car has technology that can be operated by remote control, allowing passengers to sit back as the world comes to them. Every interior element has been hand-trimmed by skilled craftsmen, with expensive wood veneers, chrome and plush leather featured throughout.
As Michael Bryden, who leads the curation of all bespoke Rolls-Royce customer cars, points out, “The luxury of bespoke is the ability to collaborate with a member of the Rolls-Royce design team in order to create a truly unique motor car that embodies and reflects your lifestyle.”
One of Bryden’s unique design touches is the starlight headliner. Above your head in the car’s interior, there are some 1,600 fibreoptic lights, which twinkle like a night sky and can be adjusted to provide a soft glow or ample light by which to read. This incredible effect is achieved by fitting delicate fibreoptic strands at varying depths and angles, producing light that escapes in multiple directions and intensities.
Last year, Rolls-Royce unveiled The Gallery, which covers the entire central expanse of the upper dashboard with toughened glass, carving out a 3D display shelf behind it. This is a chance for customers to commission their own works of art, personalising and exploring materials that have never been featured in a Rolls before, such as porcelain, plated stainless steel and exotic feathers. Noteworthy highlights must be the clay sculptures designed by London collective Based Upon.
Bounded by a common philosophy of taking the very finest materials and crafting them into exquisite and desirable luxury goods, Rolls-Royce is a brand with a long-lasting romance and history. It has led the motoring world for many years. Like a modern noble family, if you trace the roots back far enough, you will find adventurous quests and campaigns successfully carried out across all terrains, thanks to the luxury offered by a bold vehicle that was swift, stealthy and dependable.
Way before the super-luxury Cullinan SUV was designed, the British brand first proved its engineering mettle in the early decades of the 20th century by participating in long-distance endurance races throughout Europe. During the First World War, TE Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia’) braved the sands and conflict zones with a fleet of Roll-Royces. “A Rolls in the desert is above rubies,” he said, after he successfully waded through the Arabian Desert with his modified and armoured cars.
Ruling families and business leaders across the Gulf have traditionally regarded Rolls-Royce cars as the ultimate luxury, valuing their quality engineering in the region’s demanding road conditions and climate. Like Lawrence, they recognise that due to the reliability, speed and versatility, the Rolls-Royce cars can be a game-changer in the arid wastes of the Middle East. No other luxury house has the vision and flexibility to meet their demands in design and engineering.
The message Sir Henry Royce once uttered, “Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better,” continues to this day, and anything less than the pursuit of perfection is simply unacceptable in the Rolls-Royce ethos. It is this combination of technology, time-honoured craft skills and dedication to quality that sets the brand apart from every other automotive manufacturer, and will be a vital advantage over the competition, ensuring that Rolls-Royce remains relevant in the modern age.