The Rolls Royce Auto Made in America: Not a Success Story
At one point, the venerable and prestigious Rolls-Royce automobiles were made and manufactured in the USA, the United States of America. However, this early example of marketing and production abroad and away from home was doomed to failure.
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, bringing with him four automobiles 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 world famous and known. One of the cars was kept on the road as a demo model, while the other was displayed at the New York Auto Show. That first appearance at the motor show was also a huge success for Rolls Royce: four additional orders for new cars were taken. An American distributor also jumped to the plate.
Business grew for Rolls-Royce in America to the point that in the 12-month period before the start of World War I, 100 vehicles were sold. By this time, the company’s owners and management had come to realize 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 U.S. 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 both in terms of costs added to the final price of the car for US consumers, who would have to absorb import tariffs on their vehicles, and Rolls-Royce’s profitability in America. .
The die was cast. As soon as possible, American manufacturing facilities were established. This was to be a complete Rolls-Royce manufacturing plant in the United States. A factory was purchased in Springfield, Massachusetts. Manufacturing began quickly under the direct supervision of none other than Henry Royce himself. Production was carried out mainly by local workers, aided and supervised by a fleet of 50 tradesmen 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 of this car plant would be equal to 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 companies. Interestingly, over time, the number of locally made items in the US, as opposed to Britain, began to increase, not decrease. However, product consistency, 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 Derby England factory items. As time went by 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 US coachbuilders. After each of them, the established firms prevailed 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? For one thing it costs. Substantial costs were incurred to convert British right-hand drive cars to American left-hand drive ones. As a result of the increased costs incurred, the selling price of these American-made Rolls-Royces was not as competitive as other automotive products available in the American market for prestige automotive products. Next, Rolls-Royce’s main American body builder, the Brewster Coachbuilding firm, fell into financial difficulties. Then came the stock market crash of 1929. The American Rolls-Royce could go on except for one big marketing blunder. The British parent company introduced a dynamite model: the Phantom. The car was not made in the US. It did not even become available, via import of 100 cars, until a year later. The car was very well received in the prestige car market in the USA. 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 refurbishment costs incurred, the calculation was that each Rolls-Royce Phantom II American car unit produced and sold would cost the company a staggering 1 million compared to the 1929 threshold price to the customer for prestige cars. luxury from 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 an American-made prestige automobile product.