When it comes to aspirational vehicles that are a true status symbol, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars headlines an exclusive league consisting of very few manufacturers.
From its naming conventions to its history steeped in folklore, there’s just something about the Rolls-Royce name that can send a chill of excitement tingling up and down your spine.
The Ghost Series II was recently unveiled in Australia, and much like the British brand itself, the vehicle has a ‘ghost story’ of its own.
The Rolls-Royce marque was born 110 years ago during a lunch meeting between engineer Henry Royce and car dealership owner Charles Rolls.
The Silver Ghost was launched in 1907 and according to the stories, was as quiet as a ghost compared to other noisy rattlers of the time.
For Rolls-Royce this new Ghost is the rebirth of that success story and it is important for the brand and its sales in Australia.
Rolls-Royce is moving in a new direction with the Ghost, focussed more on younger owners who will spend time driving the vehicle themselves, rather than being chauffeured everywhere.
Luxuries including lambswool mats and picnic tables are no longer standard resulting in a price drop of $100,000 compared to the previous model. The more driver-centric Ghost costs $545,000 drive-away.
Very few ever leave the showroom as standard though – Rolls-Royce’s bespoke program has a take-up rate of close to 100 per cent in Australia – and the list of extravagant, sophisticated, luxurious customisation options is never-ending. Anything you can think of, Rolls-Royce will source for you. Take a look at what happens behind the scenes here.
CarAdvice sat down with Paul Harris, Asia-Pacific regional director for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
According to Harris, Australian drivers appreciate the intricate work that goes into building a Rolls-Royce.
“In Australia we see a predominance of people who are self drivers, because they understand and appreciate it.
“Some have drivers as well, but we say the Ghost is the car when you can let the chauffeur drive around during the week, then say to the driver, ‘Can I have the keys, because I’m driving the car at the weekend’. That really is the Ghost’s story,” Harris said.
“The Australian consumer is not significantly different to the global consumer. They understand that magic carpet ride in a car. Here you have extreme distances to travel on business and we just want to make that business as effortless as we can. So from point A to point B, irrespective of whether its 10km or 1000km, if you arrive in a Rolls-Royce, you arrive as refreshed as you possibly can for a journey of that distance.”
That experience is something that will remain out of reach for many, but for the lucky few the appeal is buying into a mysterious and magical world that combines branding, engineering and ‘the dream’.
“For me it’s beyond brand. In some ways it’s romantic and individual and in other ways it’s very calmingly practical. What better place to do business than in a first class lounge in the back of a Rolls-Royce, its the best place in the world. You can travel between destinations in a combination of near silent comfort and complete privacy and continue to do business. Thats the sort of modern type of dynamic individual that we’re appealing to. The the modern entrepreneurial businessman who wants to continue doing business during the journey,” he said.
Rolls-Royce has always had an affinity with those moving in more affluent circles. The bonnet ornament, the Spirit of Ecstasy, has her own story – a fable that could be verified as true by only one man.
“The Spirit of Ecstasy really came about as a result of the early motoring pioneers putting their own interpretation of badging on the front of their cars. There are many stories around the Spirit of Ecstasy, who she was modelled on and she’s got many different names. Lord Montagu of Beaulieu had a secretary and one of the rumours is, that she’s very much sculpted on her and her features and her face.
“Rolls Royce has always had an association with celebrity. Now a modern day celebrity isn’t necessarily a TV personality or film star, its the business entrepreneur. They’re celebrities in their own community, driving local economy, they’re the people that really make a country.
“At the end of the day, we need people to understand that the brand is very young and modern and dynamic, it’s a really cool brand. When you get that ultimate luxurious experience in a motor car, that is Rolls-Royce and that’s what we’re all about. We think it shouldn’t be age related, it should be part of the journey in life and not where you aim to be in life,” Harris said.
Perhaps my favourite element of the brand is its model names – Phantom, Wraith and Ghost. A theme that’s continued since the very beginning.
“They are ethereal names – all of them are words that you know but you really can’t quite touch them. The Silver Ghost really set that whole principal for Rolls-Royce in terms of that naming convention,” said Harris.
The current Australian economic climate is boding well for some, and Rolls-Royce is experiencing a surge in sales. The latest VFACTS figures show the luxury car-maker increased sales by 143.8 percent in 2014.