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Rolls-Royce Dipping a Toe Into SUV Waters

By raccars Published

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It seems even Rolls-Royce is not immune to the trend for luxury manufacturers to expand outside their traditional market segments, having confirmed that it is considering developing an SUV. The company claims it is motivated by the buoyancy of the SUV sector and a new corporate strategy targeting a younger demographic.

While Rolls-Royce has traditionally supplied luxury limousines to the super rich, it has identified an emerging group of younger, wealthy clients, including sports stars, musicians, actors and internet entrepreneurs, who are looking for a more modern and versatile vehicle. Rolls-Royce also expects the burgeoning Chinese market to be very interested. The firm claims customer demand has been a further motivating factor in its potential model range expansion, but is concerned about the potential for dilution of its brand image.

Plans are currently still at sketching stage, but rumour points toward construction at the Goodwood plant by 2017, to compete with new SUVs from rival luxury brands. The company has had successful releases recently with the new Ghost and Wraith models, demonstrating a fresh design direction, while maintaining the brand's famous, traditional hallmarks, such as the bonnet topping Spirit of Ecstasy. The Wraith shows the company reaching new levels of performance, while the company is also said to be considering limited carbon fibre editions of its vehicles.

Fellow luxury manufacturers, Lamborghini, Bentley and Jaguar, have recently revealed their own plans for SUVs, to mixed success. While Range Rover remains the benchmark high end SUV, Rolls-Royce claims its offering would set a new standard for luxury in the sector.

Bentley's upcoming attempt had to negotiate mixed reactions to its initial design. After some revision, the car is due in 2016 and will share a platform with the Porsche Cayenne, with prices expected to start at about £120,000. Lamborghini unveiled an SUV concept last year, but responses were mixed. The project stalled for a while but the company recently confirmed that production status has been granted. However, this is not the first time Lamborghini has ventured into SUV territory, but is mainly known for its supercars.

By contrast, Jaguar caused quite a stir with the debut appearance of its C-X17 SUV concept at last month's Frankfurt Motor Show, with almost universal approval making it likely that the car will be on an advanced development schedule. Jaguar has expressed major brand expansion ambitions and has been investing considerable sums into new vehicle development. A new compact saloon is on the way and is expected to hit showrooms before the SUV, while further models are in the pipeline.

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