Rolls-Royce, the venerable British luxury marque that has staged an impressive comeback over the past decade with its Phantom, Ghost and Wraith models, unveiled long-awaited plans overnight Wednesday to build a new super luxury sport-utility vehicle.
Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes, the car maker’s chief executive, and Peter Schwarzenbauer, chairman, published an open letter announcing plans for “a new car that offers the luxury of a Rolls-Royce in a vehicle that can cross any terrain.”
The new Rolls-Royce will be “a high-bodied car with an all-new aluminum architecture,” they said, providing few additional details about the car or when it might become available. The car will be built in Goodwood, the home of the storied luxury brand.
The species of sporty light-utility vehicles—ranging from economy-minded compact SUVs to sports cars to towering vehicles—has become one of the hottest and fastest-growing segments in the global auto industry. Some analysts predict that SUVs could eventually make up the bulk of new car sales.
Until recently, it hasn't seemed that this more pedestrian class of vehicles could spark the imagination of ultra luxury consumers. But that is beginning to change.
Porsche, the sports car maker, introduced the Porsche Cayenne SUV a few years ago, and followed last year with the Macan compact SUV. Porsche is now selling more SUVs than its popular sports cars.
Rolls-Royce’s chief rival, Bentley, will begin building this year what it is calling the world’s “most luxurious and most expensive” SUV.
The challenge for ultra luxury manufacturers when approaching the SUV is to preserve their uniqueness yet remain relevant to a generation of young, wealthy consumers that want the luxury and status their parents enjoyed but in a relaxed, sporty ride all their own.
Mr. Oetvoes told British journalists last month that he had no doubts the SUV segment would continue to grow in global car markets. “For me the main question has always been, ‘Is it the right segment for Rolls-Royce, does Rolls-Royce fit into that segment, how will we look in the segment?’” he told the British daily The Telegraph. To help its customers accept the new sportiness of the Rolls-Royce, the company is presenting the new car as a reincarnation of the original pioneering spirit of its early vehicles.
The new Rolls-Royce SUV aims to hark back to the company’s early luxury vehicles that “conveyed pioneers and adventurers like Lawrence of Arabia across the vastness of unexplored deserts and over mountain ranges,” Mr. Oetvoes and Mr. Schwarzenbauer said in their open letter.