LONDON - Separate signals from Volkswagen AG and BMW AG indicate the German manufacturers have abandoned hope of keeping the British luxury marques Rolls-Royce and Bentley united.
Just 18 months after introducing the Bentley Arnage with a 4.4-liter, 350-hp, twin-turbo, multivalve BMW V-8, Bentley has begun production of an Arnage fitted with an engine based on a 40-year-old Rolls-Royce pushrod powerplant.
The engine, now in production at Crewe, England, displaces 6.7 liters and produces 380 hp, according to a dealer source.
Bentley will unveil an Arnage sedan equipped with the retooled V-8 at the Frankfurt auto show in September, probably under a new name and at a higher price. The new engine will be offered alongside the BMW V-8.
In April 1998, the Arnage was introduced with the BMW engine. Bentley proclaimed it as the engine of the future. But some customers have not been pleased with the way power is delivered in the BMW engine, according to a dealer source.
The source said the new engine in the Bentley sedan will make it that much harder to sell its Rolls-Royce sibling, the Silver Seraph. The new Bentley engine will have larger displacement, more horsepower and more torque than the 12-cylinder BMW engine powering the Silver Seraph.
Joachim Milberg, BMW chairman, cast further doubt on the future of the Silver Seraph during a stopover in London this month.
'We will have a project group that will be able to create a real Rolls-Royce,' he said. 'It will be a real Rolls-Royce with an assembly plant in Britain. There is no decision on the location of this plant.'
With regard to the current Silver Seraph, Milberg said: 'We do not know if the Silver Seraph will have continued until that time (when the new car is built).'
Under the current contract, BMW will supply engines to Rolls-Royce and Bentley for the entire life of the current Silver Seraph and Arnage models.
The split of the two marques became a possibility last summer. After complicated maneuvering, VW outbid BMW for Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Cars Ltd. and the Crewe factory where the makes are built. But BMW won the right to the Rolls-Royce marque starting in 2003. That made VW the custodian of the brand.