For the $205,000 price of one Rolls-Royce Corniche, you could buy half a dozen of the new luxury cars coming this fall from Japanese automakers. But that doesn't mean the British carmaker is ignoring them.
"They will only drive up and up and up as far as price is concerned," Peter Ward, 43, chairman Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd., said. "We are very, very, very conscious of what is going on in that market."This fall, Toyota Motor Co., with its Lexus line, and Nissan Motor Corp., with its Infiniti, will join Honda Motor Co.'s Acura in forming a solid threat to the luxury car market dominated in the past by U.S. and European carmakers.
At first glance, Rolls-Royce, whose Bentley models start at $100,000 and whose Rolls models range in price from $130,000 up to the stratospheric levels of the Corniche, might seem to be immune to any threat posed by the new models, which will cost from $20,000 to $35,000.
But Ward said Rolls-Royce has both Lexus and Infiniti models on order for its engineering department and plans to look closely at the technology of the cars.
"Whatever Lexus and Infiniti do today has a bearing on us tomorrow," he said.
Not that Ward considers the models actual competition for Rolls cars. Their real competition, he said, is "disposable income." It is not a choice between a Rolls and another automobile, but a choice between one of the cars and a vacation home, a boat or an airplane, he said.
"When people spend $150,000 on a car, they want to consider it extremely well-spent money."
In making that purchase, Ward said carbuyers do not want a model whose appearance may change from year to year.