NEW YORK - Prince Philip of England asked the question on everyone's mind at the New York unveiling of the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph: 'It must be rather unnerving, having the company up for sale, isn't it?'
Richard Charlesworth, head of public affairs for Rolls-Royce Motors Ltd., gamely answered: 'I would say the reaction at Crewe has been very positive' to the decision by parent company Vickers PLC to sell the famous luxury marque.
'Why do they want to sell, anyway?' asked Philip, who is England's Duke of Edinburgh and the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.
The reply from Ian McKay, director of marketing and product strategy, was a little vague - something about how the two companies were moving in different directions and how Vickers had decided it did not want to be an automaker.
'Only Rolls-Royce Motor Cars gets sold; nothing else goes along with it?' the prince asked.
'Only Rolls-Royce,' McKay answered. Vickers will keep Cosworth Engineering, which is a supplier to the auto industry.
'They're not buying it only to close it, are they?' Philip asked. Charlesworth answered, 'Oh, no. Whoever buys it will want a return for their money.'
The sale has a huge political dimension in the UK, since Rolls is the biggest automaker left in the British car industry as far as ownership is concerned. Ford owns Jaguar and Aston Martin, GM owns Vauxhall and BMW owns the Rover Group.