Rolls-Royce Limited started manufacturing cars in 1903. Their factory is located at Goodwood and is the fifth Rolls-Royce UK based production facility since 1904. The previous four were located in Manchester, London, Derby, and Crewe. It was founded by Henry Royce and Charles Stewart Rolls.
In 1998, owners Vickers decided to sell Rolls-Royce Motors. BMW was expected to be the buyer as they already supplied engines and other components for Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars, but BMW's final offer of £340m was beaten by Volkswagen's £430m.
A stipulation in the ownership documents of Rolls-Royce dictated that Rolls-Royce plc, the aero-engine maker would retain certain essential trademarks (the Rolls-Royce name and logo) if the automotive division was sold so VW never acquired the rights to the Rolls Royce Brand. Rolls-Royce plc chose to license not to VW but to BMW, with whom it had recently had joint business ventures.
VW had bought rights to the "Spirit of Ecstasy" bonnet (hood) ornament and the shape of the radiator grille, but it lacked rights to the Rolls-Royce name necessary to build the cars. Likewise, BMW lacked rights to the grille and mascot. BMW bought an option on the trademarks, licensing the name and "RR" logo for £40m, a deal that many commentators thought was a bargain for possibly the most valuable property in the deal. VW claimed that it had only really wanted Bentley anyway.
BMW and VW arrived at a solution. From 1998 to 2002 BMW would continue to supply engines for the cars and would allow use of the names by VW, but this would cease on 1 January 2003. From that date, only BMW would be able to name cars "Rolls-Royce", and VW's former Rolls-Royce/Bentley division would build only cars called "Bentley." This resulted in 2003 BMW opening a new manufacturing plant on the Goodwood Estate close to Chichester, West Sussex.
Under BMW Rolls Royce have launched several new cars and despite the global economic downturn sales of Rolls Royce have increased. The current range includes RR Phantom, RR Coupe, RR Drophead Coupe & RR Ghost.