Although BMW AG is poised to acquire the Rolls-Royce name in 2003, Volkswagen Group still hopes to make a deal to keep it, said VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech.
If BMW takes over the Rolls-Royce name as scheduled, VW will introduce a competing Bugatti luxury sedan, Piech said.
BMW executives said they will take over the Rolls name as scheduled on Jan. 1, 2003, and shortly thereafter will introduce a luxury Rolls-Royce car built on a BMW platform.
VW bought Rolls-Royce's sister Bentley marque last year. It bought the Rolls plant, tooling and parts but lost full control of Rolls-Royce when Vickers PLC sold the Rolls name to BMW. VW will build Bentley and Rolls-Royce models until 2003 in the same factory in Crewe, England.
Piech said VW has made equal technological changes to both Bentley and Rolls-Royce models, which share components and most running gear. The bodies for the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph and Bentley Arnage were stiffened 30 percent and were modified to eliminate noise, Piech said.
'We have an interest that Rolls-Royce survive,' Piech said.
VW has shown a concept Bugatti luxury sedan, EB218, and intends to produce it.
If BMW takes the Rolls-Royce name and develops a BMW-based replacement for the Silver Seraph, Bugatti will be given the green light to produce a competing sedan, Piech said.
He also said it would be unwise for BMW to eliminate the Silver Seraph in 2003, only five years into the model run, because Rolls-Royce and Bentley products typically have an 18-year life. Killing the model too soon would play havoc with the value of used Rolls-Royces and seriously reduce the value of the Silver Seraph, Piech said.
Some insiders say BMW is considering whether to ask VW to continue producing the Silver Seraph for Rolls-Royce after BMW takes over the Rolls name.
Staff Correspondent Luca Ciferri contributed to this report