Rolls-Royce was a British luxury car and later an aero-engine manufacturing business established in 1904 by the partnership of Charles Rolls and Henry Royce. Building on Royce's reputation established with his cranes they quickly developed a reputation for superior engineering by manufacturing the "best car in the world". The First World War brought them into manufacturing aero-engines. Joint development of jet engines began in 1940 and they entered production.
Rolls-Royce has built an enduring reputation for development and manufacture of engines for defence and civil aircraft.
In the late 1960s, Rolls-Royce became hopelessly crippled by its mismanagement of development of its advanced RB211 jet engine and the consequent cost over-runs, though it ultimately proved a great success. In 1971, the owners were obliged to liquidate their business. The useful portions were bought by a new government-owned company named Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited which continued the core business but sold the holdings in British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) almost immediately and transferred ownership of the profitable but now financially insignificant car division to Rolls-Royce Motors Holdings Limited. This it sold to Vickers in 1980. Rolls-Royce obtained consent to drop 1971 from its name in 1977.
The Rolls-Royce business remained nationalised until 1987 when, after renaming the owner Rolls-Royce plc, the government sold it to the public. Rolls-Royce plc still owns and operates Rolls-Royce's principal business though since 2003 it is technically a subsidiary of listed holding company Rolls-Royce Holdings plc.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited is a British luxury automobile maker. A wholly owned subsidiary of German group BMW, it was established in 1998 after BMW was licensed the rights to the Rolls-Royce brand name and logo from Rolls-Royce plc and acquired the rights to the Spirit of Ecstasy and Rolls-Royce grill shape trademarks from Volkswagen AG. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited operates from purpose-built administrative and production facilities opened in 2003 across from the historic Goodwood Circuit in Goodwood, West Sussex, England, United Kingdom. Rolls-Royce Motors Cars Limited is the exclusive manufacturer of Rolls-Royce branded motor cars since 2003.
Although the Rolls-Royce brand has been in use since 1906, the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars subsidiary of BMW AG has no direct relationship to Rolls-Royce branded vehicles produced prior to 2003. The Bentley Motors Limited subsidiary of Volkswagen AG is the direct successor to Rolls-Royce Motors and various other predecessor entities that produced Rolls-Royce and Bentley branded cars between the foundation of each company and 2003, when the BMW-controlled entity started producing cars under the Rolls-Royce brand.
The Rolls-Royce Phantom four-door sedan was the first product offered for sale in 2003. Since then, the company has expanded its product line to include extended wheelbase, two-door coupé, and convertible versions of the Phantom sedan, as well as the smaller Ghost four-door sedan, Wraith two-door coupé, Dawn convertible, and the Cullinan SUV.