Rolls-Royce Loses Another Exec

June 9, 2005
Jim Selwa will be driving off into the sunset -- but not in a Rolls-Royce. Selwa has tendered his resignation at president of that stately British maker's North American subsidiary. It's the latest in a long-running string of setbacks for Rolls, which split off, several years back, from its long-time partner, Bentley Motors. Rolls has lost several other senior executives in recent months, and has burned through several CEOs since moving into its new headquarters in Goodwood, south of London. Sales of the $350,000 Phantom have never come close to target, hitting just 797 last year. Though analysts scoff at the idea Rolls will hit the 1000 mark worldwide this year, the luxury maker's parent, BMW, continues to insist it's happy with the way things are going.

Not so at Mercedes-Benz, which is struggling to improve the fortunes of its own ultra-lux brand, Maybach. As TheCarConnection reported in Daily Edition earlier this month, Mercedes sold an estimated 500 of the big M57 and M62 sedans last year, and expects an even sharper drop in '05. During the first quarter, sales were a lame 67.

What's wrong? Poor design, some analysts suggest. The Maybach is simply not distinctive enough, while the Phantom went way over the top with its locomotive-like front end. There are certainly enough mega-millionaires and billionaires with the money to burn on cars in this price range, though. And if there's any consolation for industry planners, it's over at Bentley. Rolls' former partner has an estimated 10 months waiting list for its sporty Continental GT, and a reasonable level of demand for the more expensive Arnage. It's also in launch mode for the new Continental Flying Spur, a sedan sharing platforms with the GT. Then there's Ferrari, with its near-permanent 3-year waiting list. The rich, perhaps, aren't so different from you or me, after all. Sure, they have plenty of money, but they aren't just going to throw it away without a good reason. So far, Rolls and Maybach simply haven't justified themselves.

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