The American-made Rolls Royce car: not a success story
At one point, the venerable and prestigious fine-motor Rolls-Royce cars were made and manufactured in the United States, the United States of America. However, this early example of offshore and out-of-home marketing and production was doomed.
Just six months after the signing of the historic contract between Charles Rolls and Henry Royce, the Rolls-Royce export campaign was underway. In early September 1906, Charles Royce was on his way to the United States, taking four cars as samples of the company’s products. One of these cars was sold almost as soon as it was unloaded; one went straight to Texas. The remaining two vehicles served as sales and marketing vehicles, an example of the fine craftsmanship and attention to detail for which the company became famous and known worldwide. One of the cars was kept on the road as a demo model, while the other was on display at the New York Auto Show. That first auto show appearance was also a huge success for Rolls Royce – four additional orders were taken for new cars. Also, an American distributor jumped to the plate.
Rolls-Royce’s business in the United States grew to the point that in the 12-month period before the start of World War I, 100 vehicles were sold in their entirety. By then, the owners and management of the company had realized the great sales potential of Rolls-Royce automobiles in the United States. Judging from current trends and market sales information and experience, they concluded that the US market for their fine products was larger and richer than anything they could hope to achieve in their home market and manufacturing domain. current: England. Import restrictions and tariffs would be the limiting factor for Rolls-Royce in terms of additional costs to the final price of the car for American consumers, who would have to absorb the import duties on their vehicles and the profitability of Rolls-Royce in the United States. United. .
The die was cast. American manufacturing facilities were established as soon as possible. This was to be a full Rolls-Royce manufacturing facility in America. A factory was bought in Springfield Massachusetts. Manufacturing was quickly started under the direct supervision of none other than Henry Royce himself. The production was carried out mainly by local workers, assisted and supervised by a fleet of 50 merchants from the British Derby factory itself. These British workers also physically immigrated to the United States permanently with their families.
Production at this Springfield plant began in 1921 with Rolls-Royce firmly stating that the product from this car plant would be the same as anything built at the local plant located in Derby England. The plan was that the parts would be shipped and assembled in the US with custom-made bodies by existing prestigious American firms. Interestingly, over time, the number of locally made items in the United States, unlike in Great Britain, began to increase, not decrease. However, the consistency of the product, in terms of product line and actual product, began to deviate from the strict British-made product. Only the first 25 rolling chassis were actually identical to the Derby England factory items. As time went on, there were more and more deviations from the strict British product. Some of this may be due to the personal preferences and procedures of different local American bodybuilders. After each of them there was a premium of established firms with different products, styles and methods previously. Some were due to requests from American customers, their ability to individualize and personalize their American made car to their individual preferences and styles.
What did he do in the American Roll-Royce? On the one hand, the cost. Substantial costs were incurred to convert cars from British driving on the right to American driving on the left. As a result of the higher costs incurred, the selling price of these US-made Rolls-Royces was not as competitive as other automotive products available in the US Prestige Automotive Market. Then the main manufacturer of Rolls-Royce coaches in the United States, the coach-building company Brewster, fell into financial difficulties. Then came the stock market crash of 1929. The American Rolls-Royce could continue except for one major marketing mistake. The British parent company introduced a model of dynamite: the Phantom. The car was not made in the US It was not even made available, by importing 100 cars, until a year later. The car was well received in the prestigious US car market, however when it was decided to make this successful product to meet American demand, the actual Phantom model was replaced by a sophisticated, ultra-high-tech model: the Phantom II. With the retrofit costs incurred, the calculation was that each American Rolls-Royce Phantom II car unit produced and sold would cost the company a staggering 1 million to produce compared to the 1929 customer price threshold for luxury cars. of prestige of only $ 20,000.
The fate of Rolls-Royce’s American-made products was sealed. The firm fulfilled the last 200 orders for its cars. In 1935, these orders were completed and delivered to their customers.
That was the end of Rolls-Royce’s experiment in producing a prestigious American-made car.