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Future models - Rolls-Royce - Ghost

Rolls-Royce range to expand further

Friendly Ghost: A coupe version of the Rolls-Royce Ghost is likely to appear next year to add to the luxury marque's line-up (Phantom Drophead Coupe shown).

Expansion of Rolls-Royce Ghost range ‘quite shortly’, SUV not ruled out

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Rolls-Royce logo16 Nov 2012

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

ROLLS-ROYCE has dropped a big hint that a third variant of its Ghost limousine will soon emerge, following the publication of spy-shots of what appears to be a coupe version of the iconic brand’s smallest model testing at the Nurburgring circuit in Germany.

Further diversification into SUVs – as per concepts shown by competitors like Bentley, Lamborghini and Maserati – has not been ruled out, but electrification of Rolls-Royce vehicles is firmly on the back-burner.

Acknowledging speculation surrounding the third Ghost model, Rolls-Royce Asia Pacific regional director Paul Harris told GoAuto the company has long considered the Ghost platform to “offer the opportunity to expand”.

“It is highly likely that we will (expand the range) and quite shortly as well,” he said.

British publication Autocar reports the two-door Ghost is shorter than the standard-length sedan, with a shorter wheelbase and, like the Phantom Coupe and Drophead convertible, has a roofline 60-70mm lower.

The Ghost’s twin-turbo V12 petrol engine is said to have its output boosted from 396kW to 447kW and the smaller dimensions will come with a weight saving, ensuring even brisker acceleration (the standard Ghost cracks 100km/h in five seconds).

Mr Harris would not comment on specifics but tantalisingly said: “We are quite good at disguising things”, perhaps hinting the car spied may not be a coupe but a convertible instead.

A smaller, sportier Ghost model would serve as a ‘halo’ car for a new type of customer Mr Harris said Rolls-Royce was trying to attract, while further broadening the brand’s appeal without resorting to niche-filling.

Rolls-Royce Asia Pacific sales and marketing general manager Daniel Balmer said the company must bear in mind the need to protect its exclusive status while devising new model lines.

“I think it comes down to where we want to be in terms of volumes across the world. We see no reason to go smaller than we are.

“A Rolls-Royce should always be a Rolls-Royce, not just being large cars, they should have a certain design characteristic and expand the brand into sports cars or smaller cars, we don’t see that as our core area.”

Although he understood the motivation for brands like Bentley, Lamborghini and Maserati to enter the SUV market and agreed “there could be a space for Rolls-Royce at that end of the market”, Mr Balmer said the company was “very cautious not to expand for the sake of expansion”.

“We see in the medium term more potential in the Ghost platform in the future would we do an SUV? Never say never – but we have no immediate plans for that.”

In terms of vehicle electrification, Mr Balmer said reaction from customers who drove the battery-powered 102EX concept was positive as they liked the quiet, serene drive – as expected from a Rolls-Royce.

“But there was one big question mark over whether they could use the car here in Australia as the customers here do more miles than in most markets.

“A run from Melbourne to the Yarra Valley for example, would there be an electric charging point at one of the estates there? Probably not.”

Mr Balmer said the future may bring an answer to the question of range and charging infrastructure, while a “hybrid would give more freedom”.

However he said customers feedback remains that “a V12 petrol engine is what they want”.

“It is the smoothest possible configuration for a petrol engine but there is potential for other formats in the future.”

Mr Balmer pointed out that as a low-volume member of the BMW Group, Rolls-Royce is not under pressure from corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards but claimed Rolls-Royce cars have the lowest CO2 emissions in their class.

Rolls-Royce used to be the brand that did not advertise because there was no need for it but has become more open to the concept, especially as it enters new markets and targets conquest customers with new models like the Ghost.

Mr Harris said new models like the Ghost involve “talking to a new audience”, making it important to advertise.

“In a place like Australia where it is a very disparate market then advertising does have a place but it is a relatively small spend for us.”

Rolls-Royce has experienced sales success with the Ghost – attributing its rise from 1000 annual units to more than 3500 to the car’s broader appeal and ability to secure conquest sales.

However Mr Harris admitted there is a challenge of making the brand appeal to people who have not built an awareness of Rolls-Royce in its modern form.

He said Rolls-Royce has must “communicate to a populous that is growing up, not the mature guys who understand Rolls-Royce”.

Mr Harris described the customers he wanted to attract as “guys who are interested in luxury, they might have a couple of nice properties, a boat and maybe a small plane and they don’t want to be a ‘me too’ in terms of premium brands”.

“They want to be into luxury and want to make a statement Rolls Royce enables you to specify that car down to your finite needs and give you what you really want in the same way as a bespoke suit that is made to measure, but (the challenge) is getting people to understand that.”

Mr Balmer said the Ghost was a top-seller for Rolls-Royce in Australia, which he described as “one of the more conservative markets”.

“Customers do not want to make a shouty statement (like with the more ostentatious Phantom) but want to celebrate their success and drive a Rolls-Royce.”

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