A replacement for the massive Phantom sedan is due next year. The question is whether there's still a market for a big, ultraluxury four-door.
Can Rolls-Royce update the sedan by softening some of the more ostentatious features, such as the iconic grille, without losing sales? It's a good bet that many Phantom buyers are eyeing other segments, including luxury crossovers.
The Phantom flagship -- the brand's first model built under BMW ownership -- went out of production in 2016 after a 13-year run. The new and as-yet-unnamed replacement will use a lighter aluminum space frame developed internally but lots of BMW parts under the hood.
The coupe and convertible versions of the Phantom won't be replaced -- a sure sign of the waning demand for the mammoth cars with imposing grilles.
Small wonder Roll-Royce wants in on the hot crossover market and will be launching its offer next year, with U.S. sales slated to begin in 2019.
It's a low-risk move, considering the hot sales of top-line Land Rover Range Rovers and the number of competitors jumping into the segment. Rolls-Royce will be the last one entering the crossover market -- trailing Bentley, Lamborghini and Maserati.
Is the Rolls-Royce name enough to lure buyers to a $400,000-plus vehicle? It will be a test of just how much the wealthy will pay for a utility vehicle -- even if it has the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament.