Bribery. Corruption. An $809 million settlement.
It's a scandal no automaker would want to be a part of.
The good news for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is that it had absolutely nothing to do with it. The bad news is that the company that did is also called Rolls-Royce.
Rolls-Royce PLC, maker of aircraft and marine engines, agreed last month to the massive settlement with prosecutors in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Brazil. It also apologized for decades of bribes paid to intermediaries around the world.
Rolls-Royce the ultraluxury carmaker became a separate entity in 1973, and later part of Vickers, before being sold to Volkswagen in 1998. But it was BMW that ended up with the rights to the Rolls-Royce brand and logo for cars.
That sort of nuance doesn't come across well on the Internet, where news of the Jan. 16 bribery settlement was accompanied by flashy pictures of Rolls-Royce cars, including a story posted by Britain's Daily Mail.
The automaker issued a public statement Jan. 20, clarifying that it has "no involvement whatsoever" in the bribery case.
But internally at the BMW unit, the confusion is causing frustration and anxiety among executives, people familiar with the matter told Automotive News. Some mix-ups they're used to, but this is the most unfortunate case of mistaken identity anyone has dealt with in the decades since the companies split, and the automaker is taking pains to make sure dealers understand the situation clearly.
Alas, all the bad press is overshadowing some pretty good times for the brand. Globally, 2016 marked the second-best sales year in the company's history, and in North America -- its largest global market -- Rolls just capped a three-year run of record sales.