There isn’t much sense in BMW continuing to own Rolls Royce — well, besides stock-blocking anyone else from collecting the golden eggs that British gander lays. The brands do absolutely nothing to improve the position of the other. Now while that was perfect in the early 2000s for keeping Rolls Royce an island, as cars transition from machines to “devices” this BMW-Rolls Royce relationship is going to workout about as much as buttered bread on a treadmill.
As far as the US market goes, Volkswagen Group has enough brand equity in Audi and Porsche to sell cars from $50,000 to $200,000 without raising many eyebrows. BMW and Mercedes match that coverage without any issues. But there are enough people in the US and across the globe now to create a sustainable volume of sales across the $200,000 to $300,000 range. Volkswagen Group has Bentley and Lamborghini cemented in that market and each covering opposite extremes while Porsche is more than ready to launch fulltime products in that segment and split the difference between Lambo and the Big B.
Mercedes can utilize AMG’s character and branding to compete with Porsche’s “elite” market moves and the Maybach line can outpace Bentley easily. Not only do these subbrands allow Mercedes to cover ever part of the spectrum in that quickly growing $200,000 to $300,000 market, they also directly increase the value of the parent brand.
Think about this, Porsche building a phenomenal car that starts at $250,000 doesn’t make Audi more desirable, in fact it stunts Audi’s growth. However, if AMG or Maybach build a fantastic $250,000 show-stopper then the Mercedes brand gets nothing but positive perception gains. In fact the gains become so great that having a poorly received subcompact sedan would actually increase brand equity! All of a sudden a “stylish” and “well equipped” $45,000 car isn’t perceived as being upmarket enough to have earned a Mercedes badge.
BMW needs to be extremely creative to cover that gap between $200,000 and the $315,000 starting price of the Rolls Royce Wraith. Rolls Royce can’t go “downmarket” nor can the Ultimate Driving Machine and the Ultimate Driven Machine work off of each other, especially when a Chevy Cruze will be driving itself in less than ten years.
All BMWs relate back to 3-Series, it can’t be helped. Conversely, all Rolls Royces relate up to the Phantom. You have two completely opposing personalities and philosophies that are done to the highest degree by each respective brand. But the worst part is that both BMW and Rolls Royce have an extremely narrow range for what their clientele will accept them building, and low tolerance for reinvention or risks. Both would need to weather a lot of hate and discontent to end up with any true synergy between the brands.
BMW has hit a price ceiling and they can’t utilize Rolls Royce to move even their Alpina branded vehicles further upmarket. For Rolls Royce, there isn’t anything M or crafty Alpina -focused marketing could do for them. The one shot they had with alternative powertrains is gone because BMW let all of the “i” branded hype die off miserably.
Think of the BMW i8.
No seriously, imagine the i8 right now!
Ok, now tell me if you saw the vehicle in motion or standing still. Were the doors up? Do you mostly think about the doors or the technology and performance? Yeah...the “i” branding isn’t helping BMW and definitely won’t relate to Rolls Royce. Don’t you, “But Wobbles! Doors go up, doors go Batman” me!
(Note: I’m not a gypsy mystic, I’m banking on the lead photo for this post influencing you).
This is why I think BMW should strongly consider selling Rolls Royce (after a few years of having the Rolls SUV on sale of course), and using that energy to solidfy and move up their M, i, and Alpina offerings. Having all three brands create a special product addressing the $200,000-$300,000 market would be the best thing for BMW. I think between those three subbrands BMW can build enough prestige to continue marching up market and avoid Porsche and Mercedes blocking them out of that next luxury tier.
BMW, take advantage and sell off Rolls Royce around 2021. I know Rolls is a fantastic brand but very soon they are going to need more income and attention than even the Cullinan Project can bring them in order to keep up and accommodate the technology shift and future expectations of what a luxury car (especially a Rolls Royce) should be.
I say let Mercedes deal with that and do you, BMW. (Then use that opportunity to sneak into Aston Martin, which is a FAR better fit for both of you).