Rolls-Royce began as a luxury car making partnership between Charles Stewart Rolls and Sir Frederick Henry Royce in 1904.
During World War I, the company was encouraged by the War Office to begin production of V8 aircraft engines, an idea actively supported by Rolls, who was an avid flyer. Thanks to a business exchange with Rover, after World War II the company began producing jet engines.
The company acquired Bentley in 1931 after the rival car maker faced financial trouble.
Due to the costs related to the development of the RB211 jet engine, the company was nationalised by the UK government in 1971. In 1973, the automaker was formally split from the aircraft engine division.
Rolls-Royce Motors was purchased by defence company Vickers in 1980; the motor company had rights to Rolls-Royce name, but ultimate control over that still rested with the aviation firm.
This became an issue when in 1998 Volkswagen outbid BMW when Vickers decided to sell up. BMW, at that stage, was supplying engines and other components that were used in Rolls-Royce and Bentley vehicles. The Bavarian firm also had a joint venture with the aircraft engine company.
After BMW paid Rolls-Royce the aircraft engine maker £40 million for the rights to the name things were at an impasse.
After much negotiation, it was agreed that Volkswagen would keep the Bentley brand, Rolls-Royce’s factory in Crewe and all historical assets, while BMW would gain the spirit of ecstasy and grille, as well as the right to make Rolls-Royce-branded vehicles.
VW would continue production of Rolls-Royce cars until then 2002, after which point BMW-controlled Rolls-Royce could start making cars at its new factory in Goodwood, England.
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