The new Rolls-Royce Phantom has been unveiled after 14 years. How would you describe the moment?
The launch of a brand-new Phantom is a very rare occasion. The Phantom is the longest-standing car name in history with an existence of over 92 years and this is the eighth generation. I would call this a historic moment. The Phantom is the pinnacle – or flagship as you call it – of the Rolls-Royce brand, so it is the best money can buy.
What has changed in 14 years? Are we looking at a more digital age or is the customer still quite traditional? How does the new Phantom appeal to a new generation of buyers?
The eighth-generation Phantom is completely new except for the grab handles at the back, which have been carried forward from the previous model. My directive to the engineers was to take the ‘magic carpet ride’ to an even higher level, enhance serenity inside the cabin and, of course, develop a Phantom which is design-wise massively modern in comparison to the Phantom VII. I think all of that was achieved here and you will be impressed by the way it drives. Additionally, we have also integrated latest technology that enables occupants to stream music and videos. We have provided all the amenities which are significant to the digital natives today. The car also carries all updated technology that money can buy, for instance the best laser headlights you will find in the market and more importantly, ‘The Gallery’.
You’ve taken bespoke to another level with The Gallery. What was the intent behind it?
A majority of our customers are art collectors. Over the last couple of years, they often inquired if it was possible for their preferred art to be a part of the bespoke process. And unfortunately, it wasn’t possible then. But now with a gallery in the dashboard, completely behind glass, customers can customise the whole backdrop with their own pieces and create what I would call a ‘gallery on wheels’.
Geographically, how is Rolls-Royce growing and what are your volume projections for the near term?
We are well placed internationally and are present in all major markets worldwide. United States is our biggest market, followed by the Middle East, while China is assuming importance again. Asia is also a very relevant market. So we have a well-balanced footprint worldwide. However, in terms of volumes, for the first time ever, Rolls-Royce will sell less cars this year compared to last year. But that is easily understandable as we haven’t had the new Phantom for an entire year and we also converted our plant at Goodwood into a completely new manufacturing facility.
How does brand’s history in India work towards creating demand?
India has a long-standing association with Rolls-Royce. In the country’s history, all Maharajas drove Rolls-Royces and the brand is deeply in sync with the Indian mindset of offering the best of luxury and the best money can buy. So India is very relevant for us, not only because we sell there but also as we have a big portion of Indian customers internationally in regions like United States, Middle East and other Asian markets. The Indian market has been stable for many years and over the next couple of years, it will definitely grow on the back of the new Phantom.
The new Phantom has very little of parent group BMW in it; the platform is completely new. How do the economics work out?
Rolls-Royce would not exist without the BMW Group which has invested a lot in the brand and also repositioned it back to the top where it belongs. We are using BMW’s components when it comes to electronics and multimedia interface. We would be mad to not use these components which are of perfect quality. Our company founder Sir Henry Royce once said, “Take the best that exists and make it better”. And that’s exactly what we are doing. The eighth-generation Phantom introduces an all-new aluminium space frame architecture, or the ‘Architecture of Luxury’ as we call it. It gives our Director of Design, Giles Taylor, the full freedom to design the vehicle and framework to create a future range of Rolls-Royces.
What’s the status on Project Cullinan (the first-ever RR SUV) and what can we expect from a Rolls-Royce SUV?
Project Cullinan is well on track and we’ll stick to the timeline. I said a year ago that Cullinan will follow a year after the Phantom. So probably a year from now, the first Cullinans will appear, not on the road but we will showcase it to the global media. The vehicle should see first customers in the beginning of January 2019; exactly one year after first customers take delivery of the Phantom. Of course, it will be the Rolls-Royce of SUVs, make no mistake. That is our approach, our brand promise and the car will be a remarkable Rolls-Royce.
Do you see an all-electric Phantom in the future?
We will go electric in the next decade. I think it is the right way forward for the brand. So for that reason, the architecture of the new Phantom already copes for the electric requirement and is capable in delivering a full-electric drivetrain in the next decade. The push for electric is driven by many factors, one of them being that city centres might be out of bounds for combustion engines. And, of course, one would like to still drive a Phantom into the city centres. So for that reason we will offer Phantoms and Rolls-Royces in an electric drivetrain at that point of time.
Rolls-Royce to develop electric Phantom
2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom video review
2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom review, test drive