Currently reading: New Rolls-Royce CEO reveals plan to ramp up bespoke abilities
Freshly appointed Rolls boss Chris Brownridge says Goodwood factory expansion will help company grow

Rolls-Royce will soon break ground on a significant extension of its factory at Goodwood, West Sussex, that will enable it to offer substantially more personalisation on each car that it builds.

Planning permission was recently granted by Chichester District Council, enabling the firm to progress with what will be the most substantial investment in the factory since it was opened in 2003.

Extending it is high on the priorities list for Chris Brownridge, the former BMW UK boss who took the helm at Rolls-Royce at the end of last year, following the departure of long-standing CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös.

Speaking to Autocar for the first time since taking the job, Brownridge – who has held several high-ranking positions in the BMW Group since joining in 2005 – said that expanding the factory isn’t just important from a commercial standpoint but also in terms of nurturing the UK automotive industry.

“We’re proud as a British institution. Rolls-Royce has a very relevant voice in the world of luxury but also contributes to UK plc,” he said, before highlighting that Goodwood employs 2600 people directly and some 7500 people across the national supply chain, while annually contributing some £500 million to the Treasury.

“We’re a significant player,” said Brownridge. “This little organisation that builds just 6000 cars a year gives a livelihood to many people.”

Rolls-Royce estimates that the expanded factory will boost its contribution to the local economy by some £71m and could create more than 1000 new jobs, although Brownridge emphasised that the aim isn’t to boost overall car output.

“When this magnificent facility was built, the business was designed around making 1000-1500 cars [annually], and today we make significantly more than that – every single one requested by a client,” he said.

“Our strategy moving forward isn’t to grow volume, it’s to grow the bespoke content of the cars, because that’s what makes it a special experience for our clients.”

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The Bespoke programme has become a fundamental strand of Rolls-Royce’s operations, with every car produced in 2023 – a record year for deliveries – personalised to some extent.

The company also set a new record for ultra-exclusive Bespoke commissions in both number and value.

“We want to invest in our capability to deliver more and more genuinely bespoke and individual motor cars for our clients,” said Brownridge, highlighting that certain bottlenecks in the existing production line limit the scope of the programme currently. For example, the paint shop is currently able to apply a twotone colour scheme on 15% of cars but demand for such finishes is at more than 50%.

The paint shop will be among the first parts of the factory to be upgraded, and the entire programme is set to be completed in 2028 or 2029. Brownridge said that growing Rolls-Royce and catering to the increasingly exacting demands of its clients are his driving priorities.

“Everything we make is bespoke to the individual,” he said, “and what we’re trying to do is create amazing bespoke goods for people and give them a great experience. It’s unlike anything I’ve done before.”

Having spent time with MG, Rover and Land Rover as well as the BMW Group, Brownridge said “I thought I knew everything about cars” but admitted that his first months at Rolls-Royce have been “absolutely fascinating” and an “eye-opener”.

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He said that his lengthy experience in the automotive industry stands him in good stead to lead the marque into the future. “I know a lot about brand management and the business of client-centricity,” he said, but “the world of luxury for me is a new area completely, so I need to learn a lot about that too. That’s why I’m spending so much time with our clients to understand their interests.”

Asked whether he plans to continue the work of his predecessor, who was CEO of Rolls-Royce for 14 years, Brownridge said: “Rolls-Royce had its most successful year last year, so it’s in great shape, but what we can also see is that the business has a very exciting future ahead of it. The foundations for that future are already in place. My job is to deliver that, and deliver it perfectly – and define the next chapter of Rolls-Royce.”

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

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jason_recliner 18 May 2024

What a relief that the 1% are getting ever richer while most people fall ever further behind and many families can't afford to feed their kids properly.

Why even post an article like this? It's just gross.

ianp55 15 May 2024

Once upon a time all Rolls Royce cars were bespoke items as the company only suppled rolling chassis and the customer made their own arrangements with coachbuilders who built and trimmed the finished cars. This of ended with the introduction of the monoqique Silver Shadow and subsequent models with standardized bodies.