Marketing the Most Exclusive Rolls-Royce

By Auto Marketing InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Marketing the Most Exclusive Rolls-Royce

There it sat, in front of the Four Seasons Resort in Irving, TX, a rare Phantom VIII, the ne plus ultra of Rolls-Royces (pictured below). This particular beauty, featured in black, had a bottom-line price of $562,775, making it one of the most expensive cars in the world.  

Of course, Rolls-Royce's marketing strategy is based on open checkbooks and turning cars like this into unique, bespoke creations. According to Gerry Spahn, head of corporate communications for Rolls-Royce North America, there are about 44,000 colors on the palette available to customers, a huge selection of leathers, and virtually unlimited customization options.

Rolls-Royce introduced the current VIII generation of the Phantom at a live-streamed event in 2017 that showcased the model going back to 1925. Fred Astaire had a Phantom I and John Lennon owned perhaps the most famous example of the V, with its vivid psychedelic paint scheme (pictured at top). The V, in particular, was favored by politicians (including dictators) and royalty; owners included Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen Mother, the Shah of Iran, Yugoslav President Tito, and the Governor of Hong Kong, as well as Liberace.

The company wants to keep the car exclusive, but also make money on every vehicle sold. Only approximately 500 Phantoms are built annually and, of those, a few hundred come to the United States. "It's rarefied air," Spahn said.

Most don't get a chauffeur — 90 percent go to owner-drivers. The typical buyer, Spahn said, "likes to collect Rolls Royces" and is very well-off financially. He said it's not a car that dealers typically keep in stock, so test drives have to be arranged — perhaps via a trip to England.

"The Phantom takes 'bespoke' to a new level," Spahn said. "We can handle any color, any interior configuration — it's incredible the number of possible combinations." He added that 99 percent of the cars are special orders with many unique features. Changes are minimal to the model year over year, he said, and Phantoms represent only 10 to 15 percent of the company's sales globally.

Spahn claimed that the Phantom, formal and old school as it may seem, is actually fun to drive and is attracting younger wealth. "It's formal in a fun way," he said. For instance, he noted that two Phantoms in unique Pebble Beach plumage with gunmetal finish were sold right off the stand at an August California event — one to a buyer in his early 30s and the other in his 40s. Younger buyers like the monochromatic treatment but whatever they want, they get.

The Phantom VIII sits on the same "Architecture of Luxury" aluminum space frame platform as the company's SUV, the Cullinan (pictured below). It offers four-wheel steering for the first time in a Rolls-Royce. Under the hood is BMW's 6.75-liter, V12 engine, coupled to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. The car is hand-assembled at the company's plant in Goodwood, West Sussex; deliveries began in January 2018.

If history is a guide, the Phantom VIII will soon be seen in as many special editions as the VII (2003-2017). To name just a few: drophead coupe (a.k.a. convertible), armored (sold in Europe and the Middle East initially), two-door coupe, 80th-anniversary edition with special features, 102 EX (one of one, a battery-electric version), Year of the Dragon Collection, and Aviator Collection. There is also the Grey Goose Extended Wheelbase special edition, created in partnership with the vodka brand — just two were made with the Grey Goose logo embroidered on the headrests.

There's gold in them thar hills. The Pininfarina Hyperion went on sale for $5 million (after the long-term customer who commissioned it, Roland Hall, decided he didn't like it). This case actually reveals some of the downsides of hyper-exclusivity.

Hall ordered the eccentrically styled car with one-off features, such as special compartments for his hunting rifles and wooden-accented doors. The new buyer has to both appreciate those details and be prepared to pay for them. It's not always easy, as some owners of custom-designed homes have discovered. The Hyperion surfaced in 2012, three years after it was first offered, in Dubai. Now, it was bargain-priced at $3.78 million. By 2016 it was on sale for $2 million. Quite a price drop!

Keep in mind that many of these editions involve nothing more than unique paint colors or upholstery options. Exclusivity is key in luxury marketing, and other supercar manufacturers — such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren — take the same approach. The latter's special operations division actually agreed to produce a short run of MSO X streetcars designed to closely resemble the 570S GT4 racer, as requested by California McLaren enthusiasts through its Newport Beach distributor. Just 10 were built.

Rolls-Royce typically produces only 3,500 to 4,000 cars (4,107 in 2018). It's not looking to become a volume manufacturer — that's a job for parent company BMW. Still, the brand has offices in 50 countries.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Rolls-Royce only targets customers with liquid assets of more than $30 million. That was more than enough reason to bring it to the Four Seasons, where, on September 28, Park Place Dealerships is hosting a Luxury & Supercar Showcase.

Park Place caters to the wealthy of North Texas, selling only luxury brands (17 of them, including Rolls-Royce). "Luxury imports are big in Texas," said Ken Schnitzer, president and chief executive officer. "We don't sell the domestic brands." The event itself is about high-end living Texas-style; it includes not just fancy new cars, but also an antique vehicle show, a fashion show, gourmet food tasting, and wine tasting.

Don't expect to see TV commercials for the Rolls-Royce Phantom. But because people are endlessly fascinated by very expensive cars, there are quite a few reviews and commentaries posted on social media. This Phantom drive on YouTube has more than 500,000 views:

Click the social buttons to share this story with your friends and colleagues.

The opinions and points of view expressed in this content are exclusively the views of the author and/or subject(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of, Inc. management or associated writers.

Copyright ©2024 MediaVillage, Inc. All rights reserved. By using this site you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.