The new Rolls-Royce Phantom has a thoroughly German pedigree despite its English superluxury heritage.
The Phantom was designed in a studio on London's fashionable Bayswater Road. But the engineering project team that put the car together was based 10 minutes away from BMW's FIZ technical development center, in the former BMW Germany sales premises on Heidemannstrasse in Munich, Germany.
Development of the Phantom began in fall 1998 when agreement about the future of the Rolls-Royce brand was reached between BMW AG and Volkswagen AG.
Although Volkswagen bought Rolls-Royce Motors Cars Ltd. from United Kingdom conglomerate Vickers in July 1998, it did not acquire rights to the Rolls-Royce name.
The owner of the brand, Rolls-Royce PLC, which makes jet engines, sold the name rights to BMW. Volkswagen kept the Bentley name and the factory in Crewe, England. BMW got the right to use the Rolls name in January.
During the initial phase of the development program, the Phantom team carried out a marketing study and formed a business plan to determine the nature of the project. Development began in earnest in January 1999.
For design inspiration, the team looked to the first one-third of the 20th century when the Rolls-Royce brand established its reputation. By September 1999, the design team under Ian Cameron had completed initial clay models of six designs, with design selection by December and design freeze in May 2000.
Development took 44 months from a blank sheet of paper to start of production.
"That was much shorter than in a normal platform development within BMW," says Tim Leverton, chief engineer of the Phantom program. The launch date was set to match BMW's right to use the brand name.