Considering how much Rolls-Royce charges for its cars and how many of its customers pay extra for extensive personalization, you might think it could easily survive as an independent automaker. But according to Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce since 2010, his company would be out of business if BMW hadn’t bought it back in 2003.
Speaking to Australia’s GoAuto, Müller-Ötvös said, “I’m glad to be a part of the BMW Group, and I would even say that Rolls-Royce would be dead without the BMW Group—we would never exist anymore.”
Interestingly, he wasn’t just talking about Rolls-Royce going bankrupt in the early 2000s. Even today, Müller-Ötvös believes being part of the BMW Group is necessary for Rolls-Royce’s survival. That’s because, on its own, the ultraluxury automaker wouldn’t be able to keep up with regulations and develop new technologies.
“This brand, I mean, these small little precious brands, would all die if they don’t have an OEM who invests early enough into long-term, very expensive technology, be it electric driving, be it autonomous, be it that you comply with all legal regulations worldwide,” Müller-Ötvös told GoAuto. “In the meantime, we are facing as a manufacturer so many different legal requirements, regulations, that it’s extremely costly to develop cars and this starts even with the MMI system in a car which is basically the whole brain and electronics in the car that is super-expensive and without having somebody in the back who is able to provide that in a very refined, proper way. No, no chance.
But even with BMW’s backing, don’t expect to see an autonomous Rolls-Royce anytime soon. “I would call ourselves, when it comes to autonomous driving, followers,” he explained. “And the reason for being a follower is that we would only bring technology into our products when the technology is at a level that customers would tell us, ‘That’s great, that’s effortless, it really helps me, it’s truly autonomous.’
Of course, it probably helps that there’s very little pressure from Rolls-Royce’s customers to add autonomous features. After all, most of them already use the original self-driving technology—a chauffeur.