CREWE, UK - Rover stopped supplying bodies to Rolls-Royce at the end of 1997, ending a 50-year association.
For the first time in its 94-year history Rolls will assemble its own bodies in-house. Body panels will be produced by Vickers Pressings, a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce's current parent company Vickers plc, and by Mayflower.
Mayflower is a Coventry-based automotive consultant and manufacturing group that has operations in Germany and the USA. It has been cited - alongside BMW, Daimler-Benz and Volkswagen - as a possible buyer of Rolls.
Rolls is preparing for body assembly at Crewe as part of a $66 million investment program that involves building what officials describe as a state-of-the-art facility.
Mayflower Vehicle Systems has been a consultant on the facility. Rolls has not revealed when in-house assembly will start, but it 'will coincide with the introduction of new models toward the turn of the century,' said Rolls-Royce spokeswoman Janette Green.
In the interim the company will continue to use Rover-made bodies, which it has been stockpiling for some time. Rolls declined to say how many bodies it has in store, but it does not expect any gap between the end of production of the current Silver Spirit and Silver Spur range, and the introduction of the forthcoming BMW-powered range.
In the first nine months of 1997 the plant produced 1,396 cars, a 9 percent increase on the previous year. It built a total of 1,744 cars in 1996.
'With conflicting speculation about our future, Rolls-Royce has realistic commercial reasons for discretion at this time,' Green said. 'But we have sufficient bodies to take us through to the point where the new facility is up and running, whenever that may be.'