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‘Rolls-Royce would be dead without BMW Group’

Not a modified X7: Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes with Rolls-Royce’s first SUV, the Cullinan – a model that might never have existed were it not for its parent company, but which is also not an “edified, camouflaged BMW”.

Rolls-Royce CEO talks straight on BMW’s vital role in company, emerging tech plans

Rolls-Royce logo1 Mar 2019

ROLLS-ROYCE Motor Cars chief executive Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes has declared that the British luxury car-maker would be “dead” without the backing of the BMW Group and will also not take the lead in emerging trends like fully autonomous vehicles, preferring instead to be a “follower” until the technology is right for its client base.
 
Mr Mueller-Oetvoes, a 30-year BMW Group veteran who has presided over Rolls-Royce since 2010, said the backing of a big OEM was a lifeline for a smaller operation like the 115-year-old Goodwood-based coachbuilder, particularly in terms of tightening regulations and rapidly emerging technologies.
 
“I’m glad to be a part of the BMW Group and I would even say that Rolls-Royce would be dead without the BMW Group, we would never exist anymore,” Mr Mueller-Oetvoes said in an interview in Melbourne this week.
 
“This brand, I mean, these small little precious brands, would all die if they don’t have an OEM who invests early enough into long-term, very expensive technology, be it electric driving, be it autonomous, be it that you comply with all legal regulations worldwide.
 
“In the meantime, we are facing as a manufacturer so many different legal requirements, regulations, that it’s extremely costly to develop cars and this starts even with the MMI (multimedia interface) system in a car which is basically the whole brain and electronics in the car that is super-expensive and without having somebody in the back who is able to provide that in a very refined, proper way, no, no chance. 
 
“And I think what we have done is, we made sure, and that is maybe a big difference to what others are doing, we are building our cars on long-standing platforms.”
 
Mr Mueller-Oetvoes emphasised that he would never allow Rolls-Royce vehicles to be regarded as modified BMWs – pointing to the Cullinan versus the X7 as an example – and that the company’s guiding principle was to ensure that every model remained true to the brand’s heritage in terms of “how it feels, how it looks, what you see, what you get for your money”.
 
“But of course where customers won’t see it, and won’t touch it, we use the technology we get from the BMW Group,” he said.
 
Asked whether any customers had reacted negatively to the BMW Group’s ownership of Rolls-Royce, such as with the sharing of certain components, Mr Mueller-Oetvoes told GoAuto: “No, not really. All our clients understand that it’s great to be aligned with the BMW Group; there are also quite some clients who even don’t know it yet, and, again, we are not using a 12-cylinder from BMW. 
 
“This is a very different powertrain, this is a Rolls-Royce 12-cylinder, and everything you touch, feel and see is Rolls-Royce-developed, whilst of course taking certain technology from BMW Group.”
 
This technology includes the basis of Rolls-Royce’s forthcoming full-electric powertrain, which is currently in development and will reach production during next decade, as well as autonomous vehicle systems, although Mr Mueller-Oetvoes told GoAuto that the company would take a cautious approach to the latter. 
 
“I would call ourselves, when it comes to autonomous driving, followers,” he said. 
 
“And the reason for being a follower is that we would only bring technology into our products when the technology is at a level that customers would tell us, ‘That’s great, that’s effortless, it really helps me, it’s truly autonomous.’
 
“The current technology is not (fully) autonomous. It helps you maybe to drive a couple of miles without touching the steering wheel, but that’s not ‘autonomous’. Autonomous is when you switch off your mind and then you relax and then you read a book and then … the car drives, that’s the level, called Level 4, that’s when I think the technology is right for us to be introduced into the car.
 
“There’s also not an expectation from our clients that we always have to be the latest, and fastest, and whatsoever. Really, it brings me back to the point that we are not selling a car here: we are selling a luxury good. 
 
“Our clients have multiple cars in the garage, they have garages like we have wardrobes, for every occasion the right car. For that reason, they already have a Tesla maybe in the garage, they have a Ferrari in the garage, and they also have a Rolls-Royce in the garage. 
 
“And that brings me to the point that a Rolls-Royce needs to be a proposition which it super-convincing, which is not at all a single compromise, in not a single detail. 
 
“Rolls-Royce is all about perfection in every single detail; this car is immaculate when it comes to quality, materials and so on and that is what our customers expect: it’s a super-reliable car, long-lasting sustainable car.
 
“Seventy-five per cent of all Rolls-Royces ever built in the 115 years’ history of the brand are still on the road for that reason. That’s what we are in for and that is what our customers ask us.”
 
BMW Group took full control of the Rolls-Royce brand in 2003 after a transition period involving the Volkswagen Group, which owns Bentley and had won a bidding war for RR in 1998, albeit without rights to crucial elements such as engines and the use of the Rolls-Royce name and logo.

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