Well, we sort of knew this was coming, but now it’s official. Rolls-Royce will develop an ultra-luxury SUV. It’s a major diversification for the BMW-owned British brand known for its luxury sedans.
CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes said the company will develop a car that offers “the luxury of a Rolls-Royce in a vehicle that can cross any terrain. The high-bodied car will be underpinned by an all-new aluminum architecture,” Mueller-Oetvoes said in a statement.
Rolls-Royce says it decided to make a luxury off-roader after consulting with its clients. The model will be built at its Goodwood plant in England and will hit the market in about three years.
Rolls-Royce is proud of the exclusivity of its cars, which command prices of $228,000 and go up from there. The company has hesitated for awhile over whether to build an SUV, worried that it may stretch the brand too far. But as the saying goes, timing is everything.
“The SUV is the hottest product in all vehicle segments,” Metzler Bank automotive analyst Juergen Pieper said. “SUVs sell well in the United States and in all emerging markets, where the road infrastructure may not be the best. For Rolls it is a shift to growth.”
The higher ground clearance of SUVs has proven particularly popular in Russia, China, Brazil, Malaysia, India and other emerging markets with bad roads.
Recognition of changing trends had already prompted Rolls Royce to expand its range beyond its Phantom limousine. It introduced the Wraith Coupe (which the Car Pro test drove last week) in 2013 and Ghost II last year. Its main rival Bentley, which is owned by Volkswagen, said it had received about 4,000 advanced orders for its Bentayga SUV, which is due to hit showrooms in 2016. Even Porsche is now selling more SUVs than its sports cars.
A Rolls-Royce spokeswoman declined to comment on potential SUV sales, but says “What is key to our strategy of carefully managed growth is that Rolls-Royce cars remain rare, precious items and absolutely authentic.”