Rolls-Royce Motor Cars CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös wears a confident smile, seated on a couch at the Park Hotel Vitznau just outside of Zurich, Switzerland. The brand’s communications director, Richard Carter, presents the eighth-generation Phantom sedan to assembled members of the media, using phrases like “the benchmark of luxury products” and “the best that human kind can do in terms of luxury automobiles.”
He’s right, too. This 2018 Phantom – the eighth iteration of a nameplate that has existed for 92 years – is a stunning, impressive machine (stay tuned for our First Drive next week). But this is much more than just the launch of a new car. As Müller-Ötvös explains during a roundtable discussion, Phantom points the way forward for the future of Rolls-Royce.
That starts with a new foundation, appropriately named the Architecture of Luxury. It’s a fully scalable aluminum platform that’s unique to the brand, and following its launch with Phantom, it’ll go on to provide the bones for every future Rolls-Royce product. Gone are the days of Rolls-Royce vehicles using borrowed platforms from parent company BMW. It just isn’t right for the brand, Müller-Ötvös says.
Rolls-Royce is “the best that human kind can do in terms of luxury automobiles.”
First and foremost, Rolls-Royce will launch a sport-utility vehicle, codenamed Project Cullinan internally. (I vote for calling the production car Leviathan, by the way.) And while this will no doubt be a huge, ultra-luxurious, ultra-expensive SUV, Müller-Ötvös says it will not usurp Phantom as the flagship of Rolls-Royce’s portfolio.
On that note, don’t expect to see new variants of the Phantom, either. While the seventh-generation car spawned Coupe and Drophead Coupe models during its 14-year lifecycle, the new Phantom will exist only as you see it now, in standard- and extended-wheelbase versions, with nearly limitless possibilities for customization and bespoke tailoring. Customers have not been asking for two-door versions of the Phantom, Müller-Ötvös says, and Rolls-Royce buyers who do desire a more personal luxury experience are perfectly happy with the exquisite Wraith and Dawn models.
Similarly, certain new features will remain exclusive to Phantom moving forward. Specifically, the new Gallery – a single piece of glass spanning the width of the dashboard that can house, well, anything you want – will only be offered on Phantom. This brings a whole new level of individualization to Rolls-Royce’s flagship – customers can display gorgeous works of art, hand-crafted sculpture, and myriad other designs in the Gallery. Truly, the possibilities are endless.
And because of this higher level of customization, Müller-Ötvös expects the number of bespoke Phantom orders to increase in the coming years. Right now, about 1,100 to 1,200 customers hand-spec their Rolls-Royce cars at the Goodwood factory each year, but the Gallery offers an additional level of hands-on involvement for the customer.
Farther down the road, Müller-Ötvös says Rolls-Royce will enter the world of electrification, but not with traditional gasoline-electric or plug-in hybrids. Simply put, customers aren’t asking for lightly electrified Rolls-Royce products – there is zero demand right now. So when (not if, when) Rolls-Royce goes electric, it will do so with a full EV, and one with “sufficient range” – about 200 to 250 miles, according to Müller-Ötvös.
But that’s still a long way off, Müller-Ötvös says. A full EV isn’t expected to arrive until sometime in the next decade, and right now, all the company’s resources are going toward development of Project Cullinan. In the meantime, Müller-Ötvös is confident the new Phantom will keep interest in the brand on an upward trajectory.
“Phantom is synonymous with Rolls-Royce,” Müller-Ötvös says. It will always and forever be “the pinnacle of the brand.”
Photos: Rolls-Royce, CarPix