The gargantuan Phantom was the model that marked the Spirit of Ecstasy’s change of ownership from British to Bavarian and it’s hardly in keeping with the caring, sharing zeitgeist. It dwarfs everything else on the road at six metres long in stretched wheelbase guise. Its engine is four times the size of most hatchbacks’. And you’ll need a stout quarter of a million quid before you can be taken seriously in the showroom.
Does the market want such profligacy? You bet, says chairman and chief exec Ian Robertson. He claims there will always be a market for hyper-luxury cars, vehicles costing as much as houses, but with presence and panache that exceeds their telephone-number statistics.
“We are not isolated from world economic events,” he admits. “But we expect another record this year.”
To give you some idea of what we’re dealing with, consider that most customers for the brand’s latest launch, the Drophead Coupé, already own a Phantom. It’s not as if the soft-top’s roof is badly insulated; we’re talking about the super-rich here who simply must have the latest thing.
Rolls-Royce can’t stand still, though. Even aristocrats and captains of industry care about their image, and driving a 6.8-litre V12 could soon be as passé as teachers smoking in class. Surely Rolls will piggyback BMW’s hybrid technology before the end of the decade. And what chance a diesel? I’d wager the small(er) £160,000 Rolls-Royce coming in 2010 could be the brand’s first model to fill up at the black pump. Even plutocrats admire parsimony nowadays.