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Rolls-Royce SUV decision next year

High Roller: The words sport and utility are so far removed from the Rolls-Royce ethos that the company is facing an internal battle over whether it should make an SUV.

Design concepts for Rolls-Royce SUV 'making good progress' as 2015 decision nears

Rolls-Royce logo28 Nov 2014

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

ROLLS-ROYCE will next year decide whether to bring its much-rumoured SUV to market and already has internal design concepts on the drawing board.

If given the nod, the high-rolling luxury wagon will become the second significantly new model line from Rolls-Royce after the still-secret convertible, rumoured to be based on the Wraith fastback and confirmed to enter production in mid-2016.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars chief executive Torsten Müller-Ötvös initiated the SUV conversation at yesterday's official opening of the brand's third Australian dealership, on the Gold Coast.

"Of course you might have heard about these rumoured SUV plans from Rolls-Royce," he said.

"We haven't made any decision yet but we are making good progress and next year we will finally decide if we do or don't do it." Mr Müller-Ötvös explained that the decision cannot being taken lightly as everybody involved is acutely aware that they are "custodians of a brand which is a hundred years old," and must be sure of their ability to create a product in the SUV category that is still a true Rolls-Royce Asked whether any design sketches or models were on the drawing board he said, "In terms of first design ideas, internally yes".

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars global communications director Richard Carter added that the idea of a sports utility vehicle was at odds with the brand's very ethos.

"Rolls-Royce is not sporty and is certainly not utilitarian, so right in that dilemma lies the issue for us in creating a car which is a true Rolls-Royce but is also a large 4x4," he said. "It's a real challenge." Unlike other brands that have made the step of adding an SUV to their line-up and then positioned it as an entry-level model in terms of price, such as Porsche with the Cayenne and then the Macan, the Rolls-Royce SUV will sit above the Ghost if it enters the market.

"Our intention is not to grow into five-digit volume numbers, our intention is that there will be no car priced below Ghost," said Mr Müller-Ötvös.

If rubber-stamped, the SUV would be built alongside the Phantom, Ghost, Wraith and forthcoming new 'drophead tourer' convertible at Rolls-Royce's Goodwood facility in West Sussex, England as a desire to maintain exclusivity means the company has no intention to expand its manufacturing base.

"We are anyhow limited in production capacity at Goodwood and I can't imagine that we are going to build a second plant somewhere else in the world," said Mr Müller-Ötvös.

"All cars need to come out of Goodwood and that plant sits in an area of natural beauty, so cannot be mirrored – that is an in-built guarantee of exclusivity." Rolls-Royce's top three markets for volume, United States, China and the Middle East all have a growing penchant for luxury SUVs, as does Australia where sales are growing rapidly.

In this country Rolls-Royce has broken all sales records between January and the end of October, with 34 cars sold and the vast majority of those being the newest vehicle in the line-up, the Wraith.

Next year is looking good too, with the new Gold Coast dealership already racking up the sales, with three cars ordered in the past week alone.

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