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Why Rolls Royce HAD to Make an SUV

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Rolls Royce
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Why Rolls Royce HAD to Make an SUV

Bill Crittenden
February 19, 2015

1930 Rolls Royce 20/25HPThe 1930 Rolls Royce 20/25HP - with a flat back. (Biswarup Ganguly • CC BY 3.0)
The inevitable announcement of a forthcoming Rolls Royce SUV, dreaded by automobile purists everywhere, has arrived.

Back when Rolls Royce made a name for itself building the world's most luxurious automobiles, it did so in an era of bodies with separate headlights, spare tires mounted on the fenders, wide running boards, limousines with open top driver's seats, and relatively flat rears that are closer to today's SUV than the trunk of their sedans.

Styles change, and Rolls has changed with it before. Now they're doing it again.

Why? Well, because they're not Morgan. I think people have Rolls and Morgan confused a bit here. Rolls Royce is not frozen in time, forever destined to make the same car in perpetuity because there will always be some small market among the nostalgic. They make a niche product as Morgan does but Rolls' niche is not neoclassical. The Rolls Royce niche is to make the most luxurious automobiles that humanity possibly can.

And they don't make them for the approval of automotive enthusiasts who drive beater Imprezas and post on message boards. Rolls Royce is part of a business that intends to make money, and so they build cars for the people who can afford to buy them. Whether you share their aesthetic or not, and I can guarantee you that they could not care less whether your do or not, the people who can afford to buy premium luxury vehicles are increasingly asking for SUVs or something similar along those lines.

So what happens if Rolls bucks the trend and just says "no" to the SUV? If the world's opinion holds that 4x4, a raised seating position, and a cabin that stretches all the way to the rear bumper are the new standards for top-shelf luxury, then Rolls will no longer be top-shelf luxury. It will still make luxurious cars, but it will be seen in a stodgy sort of way. It risks becoming Monaco's version of the Mercury Grand Marquis, a vehicle that had an average buyer age of 72 (no, that's not an exaggeration) before Ford finally ended its production.

So it was inevitable. We can whine, complain, wish it were 19-whatever all over again, or just appreciate that we're lucky to have Rolls Royce in such strong shape after its near death experience about a dozen years ago, and we can look forward to the next exquisite piece of craftsmanship to come from Goodwood.

I'm at least curious, even if I'm not in the market for a quarter-million dollar SUV.

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