LONDON - BMW is the leading candidate to buy Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, with Volkswagen its chief competitor. Daimler-Benz pulled out of the race.
Vickers said BMW would get no special consideration as a bidder, even though it has a sort of deciding vote in the matter because it is supplying V-8 and V-12 engines to new Rolls-Royce cars.
Graham Morris, Rolls-Royce chief executive, said that, under the terms of the supply contract, BMW has the right to approve every design that will use its powertrains. But he added, 'if BMW did raise objections about a purchaser, it would be held responsible.'
BMW has chased away one other bidder. Body panel supplier Mayflower Corp. backed off from a possible bid for all of Vickers after BMW Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder said he did not support it. BMW is a Mayflower customer.
Other carmakers have requested financial information from Vickers' investment bankers. Vickers said it wants to deliver a 'memorandum of information' to all suitors by mid-December.
Vickers spokeswoman Brig Daniels said the auction is wide open. 'BMW for its own reasons may be intent on ensuring it is only a one-manufacturer race,' she said, 'but we want to dispel the notion that BMW has a done deal.'
At Volkswagen, a small task force is working on a possible bid. An insider said VW may seek only a controlling share of Rolls in partnership with a UK firm.
Volkswagen would not need BMW engines. VW could use Audi's twin-turbo V-8 to power Bentley models, and the new W-12 shown at the Tokyo auto show could be used in Rolls-Royce sedans.
Daimler-Benz has ruled itself out.
'Before we would buy Rolls we would build the Maybach,' said Daimler Chairman Juergen Schrempp. A decision on producing the super-luxury sedan will be made within six months.
Beatrix Israel, Maurice Glover and
Tony Lewin contributed to this article.