Bentley was established in 1919 while Rolls Royce was established in 1931. With the Great Depression, Rolls Royce through a blind bid ended up purchasing Bentley, from that time until 2003 Rolls Royce and Bentleys are one and the same except for a “Badge” on the car, aside from that the vehicles were identical. Buyers simply would express their preference, Bentley or Rolls.
Rolls Royce Corniche
Now in 1998, Vickers Engineering that owned Rolls Royce/ Bentley sold the automotive company to VW AG, (which is owned by Porsche SE) who was shopping for other brand names to add to it’s portfolio. In 1998 they acquired Lamborghini, Bugatti and Rolls Royce/ Bentley.
BMW who also wanted to purchase Rolls Royce Motors from Vickers but was out bid by the VW AG, but as it turned out to the chagrin of VW AG, it had acquired all that was Roll Royce / Bentley..The factory, designs, talent, and the Bentley name and logo, but the Rolls Royce name and Logo was not owned by the Automotive company.. but instead by the Aerospace company. This little nuance was quickly exploited by BMW, who purchased the use of the name Rolls Royce and the Logo from the Aerospace company.
So now the drama begins. VW, owns all that is Rolls Royce/ Bentley except for the name Rolls Royce. BMW owns the name Rolls Royce and nothing else.
Now BMW could have just started sticking a Rolls Royce Logo on their BMW 7 series, but that move would have essentially destroyed the Rolls Royce Brand value, much as Mercedes did with the Maybach brand.
Furthermore, to make a Rolls look like a Rolls you need the grill and hood ornament design. I mean what’s a Rolls without that distinctive grill and Spirit of Ecstasy on top, and that to the chagrin of BMW was owned by VW AG (Bentley Motors)
Now the new Bentley motors could just go about business as usual except all the cars would be “badges” with the flying B logo. Except they were in the middle of making cars for customers who wanted the Roll Royce logo and they were using parts supplied by BMW who can with a years notice cut off that supply, and one year was not enough time to re-engineer the cars to use another supplier (VW)
So the negotiations began, VW agreed to sell BMW the designs for the distinctive grill and hood ornament and BMW in turn allowed VW’s Bentley Motors to continue using the Rolls Royce name and logo for another five years. This gave both companies time to get their acts together. Bentley to continue to fulfill orders for cars with the Rolls Royce name and re engineer a new line of cars not using BMW parts. BMW would go and build a new factory in England, supplied with BMW parts from the 7 Series.. and in the 2003 both came out with new vehicles..
So today Bentley is the TRUE legacy manufacturer of what was Rolls Royce. Rolls Royce today is essentially high end BMW’s with the Rolls Royce logo and grill work.
In Summary, Rolls Royce bought Bentley and they became ONE in 1931.. and in 1998 BMW bought the Rolls Royce name.. The true tradition of Rolls Royce are being sold under the Bentley name now, hence Bentley owns Rolls Royce in spirit while BMW owns Rolls Royce in name.
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