CREWE, England - Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Cars Ltd. is searching for existing Volkswagen Group dealers in Europe who might be interested in operating a Rolls-Royce and Bentley dealership.
Germany, the world's second largest luxury car market, is a particularly high priority. Rolls-Royce has only six Rolls-Royce and Bentley dealerships, compared to 30 in the UK and 40 in the USA. Sales in Germany have increased since VW bought the company last year.
Rolls-Royce and Bentley also wants to expand its dealer body in the USA by soliciting existing VW/Audi dealers, said Richard Charlesworth, Rolls-Royce and Bentley spokesman.
However, the company can give the dealers no guarantee they will be selling Rolls-Royces in the future, since BMW takes over the brand 1 January 2003.
Rolls-Royce and Bentley officials say the expansion does not mean they would put other VW group brands and Rolls-Royce and Bentley dealers together on the same sites.
In addition, Rolls-Royce and Bentley has made several key personnel changes as the company comes more directly under the control of VW.
The moves are part of Rolls-Royce and Bentley's preparations to more than quadruple annual volume from about 2,000 to 9,000 or 10,000 vehicles within the next five years.
The personnel changes are as follows:
Tony Gott, who had been acting chief executive since the beginning of the year, has had the word 'acting' removed from his title.
Adrian Hallmark, who has been marketing director for Porsche Cars GB for the last three years, will replace Keith Sanders as member of the board for sales and marketing. Hallmark was chosen because of his role in helping Porsche make a turnaround in the UK and because he is used to reporting to a German parent company, said Charlesworth.
Ulrich Hackenberg, now director of car body development at VW, will become member of the board for engineering at Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
Hans-Georg Melching will become member of the board for finance. Melching has been serving dual roles at VW and Rolls-Royce and Bentley since August, 1998.
Gott insisted the appointments do not constitute a 'Germanization' of Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
'It's an intelligent structure designed to combine Rolls-Royce and Bentley with the family of VW - but not to submerge it,' he said.
Gott said the seven-member Rolls-Royce and Bentley board would remain independent and report through him into VW at Wolfsburg.
VW allowed Gott a voice in choosing which executives to bring in from VW and elsewhere. He described the appointment of Hackenberg to the Rolls-Royce and Bentley board as a 'coup.'
'It's a real commitment to get somebody of his caliber here,' he said. Hackenberg will reside jointly in the Crewe area and in southern Germany, where his family now lives.
Melching will help change Rolls-Royce and Bentley's financial systems to make them harmonize with VW's. 'These guys are coming so they can help this business become fully fledged,' Gott said.
Gott is sensitive to the suggestion that one key appointment, Dirk van Braeckel, newly appointed Rolls-Royce and Bentley styling director, might not be appropriate for the super luxury brands simply because he was previously styling chief at downmarket Skoda.
'This person is as good as there is,' said Gott. 'I've been totally impressed and in some cases stunned by his work. We always knew we'd get some reaction because he's not British (van Braeckel is Belgian). Why is it someone has to be born at (upmarket English town) Henley-on-Thames and go to a certain school to design a British product?'