This seems to be Dream Car Week here at the CarGurus blog (quite a change from last week’s hybrid and flex-fuel focus). My own wish-button was pushed by a press release I received about a Rolls-Royce gathering that marked the centenary of the luxury automaker’s Silver Ghost model.
According to DueMotori.com, sixty classic Silver Ghosts (and, of course, their owners) assembled at the Rolls plant in Goodwood for a 17-day tour of the United Kingdom in honor of the classic car’s 100th anniversary. The event was organized by the 20-Ghost Club, a group devoted to restoring and celebrating pre-war Rolls Royce cars.
You can see how a car this beautiful could become your passion, let alone your hobby. But the amazing thing (to me) about Rolls-Royce is that they still do make them like that. One of the advantages of the Rolls market niche is that their reputation and cachet allows them to charge premium prices, which in turn enables them to hand-craft their cars to an enduring standard of elegance.
The heir to the Silver Ghost legacy, the Phantom Drophead Coupe, has the same meticulous craftsmanship that made the Rolls Royce brand a synonym for luxury; when the 2008 Phantom Drophead Coupe was unveiled at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, gawkers and collectors alike were mesmerized. According to our friends at Autoblog.com, the first 2008 Phantom Drophead Coupe to be shipped to the US belongs to a Florida gentleman who paid $2 million for the privilege in a high-end charity auction (quite a premium over the 300,000-pound list price, but it’s for a good cause!
So one might ask: what does this have to do with the rest of us, who don’t have a couple of million to drop on a handmade Rolls? One lesson I think that the enduring success of Rolls Royce (now, of course, owned by BMW) can teach the auto industry as a whole is to build on strengths, and to incorporate history in a company’s future.
The British and European auto industries had to learn this tough lesson before the US auto industry, but the wake-up call is long overdue on this side of the Atlantic. The US isn’t going to be able to keep competing with Asian manufacturers (especially now that China has launched its automotive sector in a big way) on cost, volume, or efficiency.
What US carmakers can offer is a heritage of excellence, of powerful muscle cars and innovative, rugged trucks, of a century of redefining family transportation for the world. Ford’s revitalized collaboration with Carroll Shelby, the designer behind its classic Mustangs of the 1960s, is one positive step in this direction; I’d like to see more of this energy from GM, and perhaps the new management at Chrysler will be inspired by that brand’s past glories in creating its future. Let’s see what the next few years bring!