Rolls Royce is no doubt one of the most expensive car brands in the world today. Rolls Royce aside being produced in limited edition is one of the most classic cars in the world today. If you are wondering why Rolls Royce is expensive, here are the reasons below
Firstly, dismal economies of scale. When you are selling few cars you need to charge a lot more per car to repay the costs of development.
Secondly, they are still using a lot of Eighteenth-century manufacturing techniques. Less than before WWII but still a lot.
Back in the 1790s Joseph Bramah and Henry Maudslay were pioneering precision repetition engineering that allowed high-quality parts to be installed without hand fitting. The way it was done formerly, and was still done by Rolls-Royce on every part of their cars until WWII was to make the parts roughly right then hand fit each to work perfectly in just that one location. When you needed to replace it you had to spend hours hand-fitting the replacement part.
It was that hand-fitting that was what required the Rolls-Royce technician to fly to wherever you were in the World because the part wouldn’t fit straight in.
Rolls-Royce had to catch up fast in WWII when they couldn’t produce enough Merlin engines and had to get others to produce them. They were shocked when Ford of Dagenham explained that the Rolls-Royce manufacturing tolerances were nothing like precise-enough for the Ford assembly line. Ford didn’t hand-fit, they got it right first time or the part was rejected. For a premium product, such as the Merlin, the specifications were tighter but they still did not need hand fitting.
What that meant in real terms was that Ford produced thousands of Merlins without a reject. Because the parts were interchangeable the overhaul time of a Merlin, a critical factor in wartime use, dropped by a huge amount. An old aircraft fitter I met claimed that they were overhauling late model Merlins in as many minutes as the early ones took hours, but he may have been stretching it a little.
Later, Packard was engaged to produce Merlins in the USA and the legend is that it was Packard, a prestige manufacturer, who taught R-R about interchangeability because it was just too embarrassing to admit that it was Ford.
Key point is that the Ford-built Merlins were at least as reliable as the R-R factory ones. Hand building does not make better motors than those manufactured to stringent tolerances in the first place.
Another problem with R-R design is one that afflicted much of British industry through the Twentieth Century. The multiple levels of class distinction in the UK meant that the design office didn’t speak to the factory floor or to the mechanics who had to service the vehicles. That made for designs that were unnecessarily difficult to build and sometimes extraordinarily difficult to service or repair.
IN 1903 Henry Leland in the USA applied to motor cars the ideas developed by Bramah and Maudslay, and their apprentices including Joseph Whitworth and James Naismyth a century earlier, and by firearms manufacturers including Colt and Springfield. His cars were designed to be built to the highest standards simply, and to be serviced and repaired easily.
Shortly after his Cadillac company was bought by General Motors Leland left the company to form Lincoln, which was subsequently bought by Ford.
Neither company could sell the kind of mystique of Rolls-Royce because too few US magnates took as much delight as the Norman-British still do in the thought of so many common people slaving over the details of their cars.
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