BMW’s first Rolls celebrates its 21st anniversary

BMW’s first Rolls celebrates its 21st anniversary

In the late 90s, an event occurred on the auto planet. Bentley and Rolls-Royce, two of the world’s best car brands, are sold at the same time. A rare opportunity for a car manufacturer like BMW.

For Germans, the announcement of the sale of the two brands is good news. Very close to the image of Vickers, the current owner, BMW is also the supplier of the engine of the next Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph.

By supplying its V12 to Rolls and helping Bentley improve its traditional V8, BMW is already positioning itself as a favorite for the future.

A surprise attack

For BMW the issue has been resolved. But a month later, when the takeover candidates were announced, BMW saw the emergence of another German manufacturer: Volkswagen!

Accustomed to take (Audi, Skoda, Seat, Lamborghini, Bugatti, etc.) the Wolfsburg manufacturer would consider himself the head of these British institutions.

Despite this surprise, the deal is going as planned for BMW, whose £340m bid has been confirmed by Vickers.


Against all expectations, Volkswagen makes a new offer of 430 million pounds at the last minute. This time it’s done, Volkswagen buys Rolls-Royce and Bentley.

We are talking here about the historic Crewe factory, the plants, the structures, the administrative headquarters, the patents, everything that makes the car manufacturer.

At the same time, BMW approached the image of the aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce, which authorized the use of the Rolls-Royce brand and logo!

Who owns what?

So we find ourselves in a confusing situation. On the one hand Volkswagen which bought Rolls-Royce and Bentley and which owns everything except the right to use the Rolls-Royce name or logo, which belongs to the Rolls-Royce image.

On the other hand, BMW which has the right to use the Rolls name and logo and which is threatening to no longer supply engines for future models if an agreement is not reached with Volkswagen.

For VW this is a problem. This will involve halting production of Rolls-Royce models for at least a year. For the two German bosses, there is no choice, we have to negotiate.

Two men face each other

The battle between Volkswagen and BMW is a conflict between Ferdinand Piëch and Bernd Pischetsrieder. Ferdinand is the absolute master at Volkswagen, a feared and admired boss. Bernd is small, but he is sharp and clever as well. But both men are also known to be very intelligent.

After six months of negotiations, the press release comes out. Two rivals will split the English jewels. Volkswagen maintains a Bentley and Crewe factory. Rolls-Royce has been handed over to BMW for 400 million francs, a friendly price.

Until the end of December 2002, BMW authorizes Volkswagen to use, under license and free of charge, the Rolls-Royce brand. Production is not interrupted and this delay gives BMW time to build its factory.

Phantom VII, revival

We had to wait until 2003 to see the first Rolls from BMW. The car is presented at a price that lives up to the legend: $ 333,000. It inherits a 6.8-liter V12 engine that propels it from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds.

Rolls is talking about “120% car”, longer, heavier, wider, longer than any competitor.

BMW has built a $100 million assembly plant in Goodwood, near Chichester, about 100 kilometers from London.

industrial bet

The engines and bodies of the new Rolls-Royce are shipped from Germany to Goodwood, where the cars are painted and the leather and wood upholstery is installed. For Rolls the stock is high, sales decreased by 60% last year.

Available in limousine, coupe and convertible, the Phantom VII is convincing. 10,327 copies will be produced, sold at a reasonable price. Rolls-Royce will be able to face the 21st century.