After the Gold Rush: Rolls-Royce Ready to Embrace Minimalism

Rolls Royce Cullinan

We’ve covered how mainstream automakers rose to the coronavirus challenge ad nauseum, but what about companies whose customers dream of rich mahogany and yachting off Cannes all night?

Well, just like a Silicon Valley tech mogul, Rolls-Royce spent these past few months reflecting, peering deep within its soul, all to learn how to become a better friend to its clients. Apparently, “post-opulence” is now a thing.

Speaking to Autocar, RR’s chief designer, Alex Innes, said the brand’s Bespoke division — tasked with crafting the ultimate expressions of personal luxury — has noticed a change among its customers.

“Not being able to meet clients in person has been challenging, but we’ve worked around it and we’ve continued to be in near-constant dialogue with them,” Innes said.

“The benefit the lockdown has afforded us is the currency of time to contemplate and reflect – and we’ve noticed a similar trend with our clients. They’ve had more time to really think and engage with the coachbuild process. I’ve had lots of video chats with them to obsess over little details.”

Okay, but where does the assertion come from that people with endless money to spend on a tailor-made automobile have altered their exacting tastes?

Innes addresses that:

“There has been a slight change in attitude and behavior, building on a trend we’ve recognized for some time but which has accelerated since the coronavirus. We’ve termed it ‘post-opulence’: clients in the wider luxury sphere are coming to question the substance of things and what is necessary.”

Rolls Royce Cullinan

According to the designer, brash status symbols are out, and thoughtful luxury is in. Guess RR will have to discontinue the Cullinan, then.

“There’s a shifting attitude to cars, which is reflected in a shift to a more minimalist aesthetic,” Innes continued. “Clients don’t want the opulence and ornateness of yesterday: they want a new type of luxury, with more purity. It’s about real attention to detail, towards higher and more exacting standards.”

No, Rolls-Royce hasn’t decided to give Nissan a run for its money at the low end of the market. In this sense, minimalism needn’t mean spartan or plain. And certainly not pedestrian. Perhaps a good American representation of what Innes is angling at is the changeover from the 1960 Continental to the ’61.

As the Bespoke division’s commands come from clients’ wishes, neither it nor Rolls plans to craft such “minimalist” vehicles from the ground up, at the factory. It’s up to buyers to outfit existing vehicles in whatever manner they choose. The car is the canvas, Innes said. Bespoke just adds the paint.

And that’s your PSA on how gauche, ornate, Baroque trappings are falling out of favor at the absolute pinnacle of the new car market. Use that knowledge wisely.

[Image: BMW Group].

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