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Rolls Royce Introduces the Phantom Drophead Coupé at NAIAS - VIDEO ENHANCED

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EDITOR'S NOTE: This page contains two embeded videos. The first is the complete Rolls Royce Press Conference at the Detroit Show, and the second is a short promo of the Phantom Drophead Coupé being built and driven on the road. Both are viewed by clicking on the PLAY button.

DETROIT - January 7, 2007: Ian Robertson, Rolls Royce's Chairman and Chief Executive, opened his company's press conference at the Detroit Auto Show today with optimistic words about Rolls Royce's new chapter in its illustrious history (since the acquisition by BMW), and then followed by helping to unveil the stunning new Phantom Drophead Coupé. The following are Ian's opening remarks:

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us this morning.

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It was four years ago that we pulled the covers from the Phantom, in this hall, and began a new chapter in the 102 year history of Rolls-Royce. And so we felt it was appropriate that we should celebrate the beginning of the second phase of our business development, by unveiling our new convertible model here too….but you will have to wait a few more minutes to see that.

First of all I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the Phantom since its launch four years ago. This car marked a new beginning for the company – an all new, full-sized limousine, positioned at almost twice the price of the outgoing Silver Seraph. We really were entering unknown territory. The upper stratosphere of the car market, above $300,000, was populated exclusively by rarified supercars selling a few hundred each year at best.

You could say that Phantom has rewritten the rules, because it has been something of a sales phenomenon, in relative terms, and become the best-selling car in the world priced over $200,000. In the process we have re-established and repositioned Rolls-Royce in its rightful place at the top of the automotive tree, with sales growth every year since launch.

Last year customers in over 50 countries bought Phantoms and we have seen our dealer network expand from below 60 when we began, to 79 by the end of the first quarter this year. At the same time we have seen the average age of Rolls-Royce buyers reduce by roughly 10 years and the average annual mileage more than double as new owners become addicted to the unique driving experience.

So last year we saw our sales reach a new record level, at just over 800 – the highest number of Rolls-Royces sold for 16 years, in the days of the Silver Spur. Within this, we saw that the extended wheelbase model accounted for around 20 per cent of our volume – much higher than we had anticipated – and in the markets where it was introduced first, specifically Asia Pacific and the Middle East, it accounted for around a third of all sales.

America remained our strongest market overall, by a substantial margin, and the UK stayed in second place. Asia Pacific was our fastest growing region with the China market growing at 60 per cent, making it our third largest in the world, and Japan still performing very strongly. China also saw the sale of our most expensive Phantom ever – a special coachbuilt model costing over $2 million. And our best performing dealers were once again spread across the world with a cross-continent tie for the top spot. Tokyo and Beverly Hills recorded the highest sales followed, respectively, by London, Dubai and New York.

This excellent worldwide performance has placed us in a strong business position, making a healthy positive contribution the BMW Group. We have now established a solid foundation for the company and completed phase one of the rejuvenation of Rolls-Royce. Phase two will see us adding to the Phantom family, with the new convertible and perhaps others in the future.

Phase three will come around the turn of the decade with an all-new model to sit alongside the Phantom range. It will be slightly smaller than Phantom – although still a large car – and priced slightly below it, in the range $250,000 to $350,000. Preparations for this new model and the expansion of our business have already begun at Goodwood and the construction crews arrived last month.

So an exciting period of continued growth lies ahead – which begins right now with the new convertible.

Convertibles have always been a key part of the Rolls-Royce model line-up. From the very early days of the Silver Ghost and Phantom Dropheads and later the Silver Cloud and the Corniche. There has always been something glamorous and romantic about a convertible Rolls-Royce. Where most of the sedans have an air of formality, the convertibles were more casual – a little more relaxed. It was always part of our plan to have a convertible model in our line-up and you will remember that we showed the experimental car 100EX at Geneva motor show in 2004 – our centenary year.

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The reaction to that car at Geneva and other shows – and as it toured the world – was extraordinary and we later announced that we would build a production model inspired by it. As you will see, we have tried to stay as close as possible to the design of 100EX – keeping in particular some of the special features that caught the attention like the teak decking at the rear and the brushed steel bonnet.

Under the skin it is technically very similar to the Phantom, sharing the same superb engine and running gear. Using the Phantom’s light-weight aluminium spaceframe chassis as a start point was a huge advantage – for the simple reason that it is incredibly stiff. It is always a challenge to eliminate body vibrations in a convertible – but I can tell you that after driving the prototypes on all kinds of different surfaces, I have not detected any. This chassis is responsible for all the best things about the Rolls-Royce driving experience – its silence, its magic carpet ride, its freedom from vibration.

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Like the Phantom this car offers effortless performance - the sprint to 60 mph takes just 5.7 seconds….and because it is 225 mm or nine inches shorter than the Phantom is even more nimble and responsive. This is a car for owner to drive and enjoy – a very special experience for a handful of lucky individuals. We set out to create the quintessential open air driving experience and you will be the judges of whether or not we have been successful.

And what about the name. We wanted one which would make it very clear that this car was part of the Phantom family and yet would also be appropriate for the kind of car that it is….and at the same time would resonate with the history of the company. And so ladies and gentleman, you have heard enough from me, let me present to you….the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé."

To learn more about the the Phantom Drophead Coupé and see another video (a third one), about the Rolls Royce 101EX, CLICK HERE.