Rolls-Royce is aiming to produce a new car from its Coachbuild division every two years, according to company CEO Torsten Müller-Otvös – but such projects will occur only if there is both demand from buyers and an “appetite” from within the company.
The British firm recently unveiled the $37 million Boat Tail, an ultra-luxury four-seat GT created for three of its customers. The machine took four years to develop and was inspired by the one-off Sweptail, revealed in 2017.
Müller-Otvös said customer demand for one-off models following the Sweptail prompted the establishment of Coachbuild as a full business unit.
“Sweptail was a one-off with a particular client and received an unbelievable reception,” said Müller-Otvös. “We had a lot of enquiries from our clients if they would be picked to join the next Coachbuild project. We did that four years ago and, while doing that, ramped up the department.
“Our idea is to maybe do one project every second year. Whether it’s three cars or one car will hinge very much on the idea of the clients and also on our appetite for doing it.”
Müller-Otvös added that the firm is in a “very comfortable position” where it can pick clients for future Coachbuild projects. He said the firm “wants to keep it very rare” and will ensure each project is an exclusive offering.
“There’s no intention to boost any volume, because the intention clearly is to create projects that are significant for the brand’s history in 70-100 years or so, and that are truly unique pieces,” he said. “That also fits quite nicely into the heritage of Rolls-Royce with coachbuilding projects in the 1920s and 1930s.”
Rolls-Royce has refused to confirm the suggested $37m price of the Boat Tail – a figure that would make it the most expensive new car to date – but Müller-Otvös said the expanded Coachbuild effort will not supplement the firm’s production models as the key business driver.
“Our base is the business we are successfully in – Cullinan, Phantom, Ghost and so on – and that will stay our main business,” he said. “Commercially, Coachbuild is not a ‘make it or break it’ addition for the business. But it’s important for the brand aura and for the image of the brand to showcase unbelievable craft skills that we have developed over the years.”
The Coachbuild operation will sit alongside the firm’s existing Bespoke personalisation division, and Müller-Otvös said the two arms will complement each other.
“Teaming Coachbuild with Bespoke will give us very lovely input into our Bespoke business,” he said. “It’s an amicable relationship and will lead to fantastic new ideas in that area. Already, 98% of all cars leaving the plant are fully Bespoke and that will enable clients to do more in future.
“Bespoke benefits from the ideas and crafting on the Coachbuild side, and the other way round as well. Our designers and engineers have great ideas that will fuel both Coachbuild and Bespoke.”
The Coachbuild programme has been enabled by the firm’s aluminium Spirit of Luxury architecture, which has the flexibility to accommodate different sizes of bodywork. The Boat Tail uses the engine and main underpinnings of the Phantom, but with nearly 2000 unique parts.
Rolls-Royce is currently developing its first EV, tipped to be called the Silent Shadow, which is due by the end of the decade. Asked if the firm will eventually offer Coachbuild EVs, Müller-Otvös said: “Definitely. Inevitably. Once we go full electric, why would we stop Coachbuild?”
Torsten Muller-Otvos on…
Breaking new car delivery records so far in 2021
“Who would have foreseen a year ago how quick the recovery would happen? I felt it last year talking to clients and seeing what was happening with our order books that the recovery is starting, but it really went up quite steeply in terms of demand. Part of the reason is that our clients are global citizens who now can’t travel and are spending their money on other luxury items.”
“They are all long-standing Rolls-Royce clients who know the brand very well, and they had the patience to stay with us for the four-year journey. They put considerable time into being engaged with the designers and engineers and talking about it. The engineers and designers are reserved for you as a client – so a call over the weekend because you have a new idea will be answered immediately and we’ll say ‘Let’s go’.”
Selling ‘experiences’ with Coachbuild and Bespoke
“The experience we offer is true for every Coachbuild and Bespoke car. We launched a digital service for Ghost last year, inviting clients to commission their car via video. Our clients appreciate the family feeling they encounter here in Rolls-Royce; they are part of a small family.”
Why Rolls-Royce is skipping PHEVs for full EVs
“It’s nothing against plug-ins. It’s just that, for our clients, electric makes massive sense; they all have the infrastructure at home or at their office, so it’s not an issue of charging. For that reason, they have multiple cars. Electric is the right way forward for the brand.”