In 1997, BMW Group was presented with the “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to acquire one of the most prestigious brands in existence – Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. With a rich history dating back to 1904 and globally renowned for its excellence, it inspired that most aspirational of all phrases – “the Rolls-Royce of…”
As the new owner, BMW Group faced the challenge of creating a fitting home for the prestigious brand, amidst competition from towns and cities across Britain offering investment and job opportunities. It was evident that only one location was deserving of the brand and its clientele – The Goodwood Plant, near Chichester in West Sussex, at the very southern end of Britain.
Rolls-Royce has a strong and personal relationship with the Chichester region and its surrounding area. The co-founder of the company, Sir Henry Royce, lived and worked at his home, Elmstead, in West Wittering. Here, he created some of his most noteworthy projects, including sketching the design for his iconic Merlin aero engine.
The close historical connection to Goodwood, just eight miles away, made it the ideal location for Rolls-Royce. The Goodwood Estate, home to the Goodwood Motor Circuit and Festival of Speed, is well known to Rolls-Royce’s clientele due to its international reputation as a racecourse and hotel. The project was supported by the Duke of Richmond, the owner of the Estate, who helped identify the perfect parcel of land for Rolls-Royce.
From the outset, everyone involved knew that this could be no ordinary manufacturing plant and headquarters. Rolls-Royce commissioned award-winning architects Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners to create the striking, contemporary and highly sustainable building that blended effortlessly into the surrounding landscape.
Exactly 20 years later, the Home of Rolls-Royce at Goodwood remains the only place in the world where Rolls-Royce motor cars are designed and built. In 2016, the company opened its Technology and Logistics Centre in nearby Bognor Regis, to support Goodwood’s highly streamlined, fully integrated manufacturing processes.
As well as a new home, Rolls-Royce needed a new flagship product to re-establish itself as “The best car in the world.” The result was Phantom. On January 1, 2003, Rolls-Royce delivered the first-ever Phantom of the Goodwood era to its new owner who, we are informed, still owns it to this day.
In 2007, the company launched the Phantom Drophead Coupé, and a year later the imposing Phantom Coupé. The latter was so revered by customers and the media that it would influence Rolls Royce’s design philosophy for the next decade or so.
The new incarnation of Rolls-Royce increasingly appealed to a new generation of younger, self-made, self-confident people, who brought with them different demands, desires and expectations. In 2010 the company responded with a completely new model – Ghost. Driver-focused and approachable, Ghost was an instant success, and would go on to be the highest-selling Rolls-Royce in history.
In 2013, Rolls-Royce launched its most powerful model ever, Wraith, followed three years later by the Dawn drophead. And since 2018, Cullinan – the ‘Rolls-Royce of SUVs’ – has allowed customers to enjoy the company’s signature ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ off the road as well as on it. Cullinan is now the most in-demand model in the company’s line-up.
At the same time, certain clients were looking for something more subversive and rebellious. For these outliers, Rolls-Royce created Black Badge – more potent and uncompromising expressions of Ghost, Wraith, Dawn and Cullinan, which today accounts for more than a third of the cars built at Goodwood.
Over the past 20 years, Rolls-Royce has continuously developed and expanded its Bespoke capabilities, giving clients near-infinite ways to personalise their motor car. The ultimate expression of this is Coachbuild, where a small but significant group of individuals can commission not just their motor car’s external colour and interior features, but its physical form. The gorgeous Sweptail coupé and the recent Boat-tail Convertible are splendid examples of Coachbuild Rolls-Royces.
In October 2022, Rolls-Royce embarked on another, perhaps even more ambitious endeavour, with the launch of Spectre – the genre-defining electric coupé. This car ushered in a new era, in which every new Rolls-Royce model by the end of 2030 will be fully electric.
Behind this phenomenal portfolio of automotive art, are the people who conceive and bring to life a Rolls-Royce car. The collection of talented individuals at Goodwood has grown from 350 people in 2003 to 2,500 today, representing more than 50 nationalities.
Moreover, since 2006, almost 200 talented young people have passed through the company’s world-class Apprenticeship Programme, while hundreds of university students have used industrial placements at Rolls-Royce to gain invaluable experience and kick-start their careers. The company also continues to run a highly successful graduate programme.
“Goodwood is both the physical and spiritual Home of Rolls-Royce,” says Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Rolls-Royce CEO. “In its design and construction, it embodies our central values of precision, attention-to-detail and pride for this great British institution. It is its own private universe, yet wholly connected to the wider world. We, the Rolls‑Royce family, are privileged to call it home.”