Thursday, June 14, 2018

No, Rolls-Royce didn’t announce thousands of job cuts today. But Rolls-Royce did.

A Rolls-Royce on display at a Cars and Cognac event hosted by the automaker.
Rolls-Royce Cars and Cognac Event. Photo: BMW Group Press Club.
It was a study in random PR mishaps and brand confusion. And it’s hard to imagine how the timing could have been much worse.

On Monday, Rolls-Royce issued a press release that boasted about how many “powerful, influential and remarkable men and women” have owned their vehicles through the marque’s nearly 115 years of history.

The same announcement also insinuated, with just a hint of good-humored mock snobbishness, that “cars and coffee” just ain’t good enough for such a highfaluting brand, with an account of an inaugural Cars and Cognac event that Rolls-Royce hosted as an exclusive gathering of owners “in a private environment befitting of the marque: Soho Farmhouse private members’ club in the heart of the Cotswolds.”

By itself, the Cars and Cognac gimmick was harmless enough, maybe worthy of a mild chuckle or two—until today, when another unfortunate shoe dropped.

Rolls-Royce probably never saw it coming when Rolls-Royce announced today that they were cutting some 4,600 jobs—or, as they phrased it in their ever so elegantly British way, that there would be “a reduction of around 4,600 roles.”

Coming on the heels of the nose-turned-up-ish Cars and Cognac announcement, it all had just a bit of a Marie Antoinette “well, let then drink cognac” feel.

But there is one small qualifying factor. It isn’t Rolls-Royce that’s cutting 4,600 jobs: it’s Rolls-Royce.

Wait, what?

OK. Enough fun and games. You get the point, right? If you don’t yet know the back-story, I’ll let you in on it now. We’re talking about two different corporate entities.

The Cars and Cognac announcement was made by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, the company that has been produceing Rolls-Royce automobiles under the ownership of the BMW Group since 2003, after BMW acquired rights to the brand.

Job cuts are taking place, however, at Rolls-Royce PLC, a company that does actually have common origins with the British automotive brand but now focuses not on automobiles but on aircraft engines and other large-scale power-producing machinery used in industrial, military, and energy-generation settings.

According to Rolls-Royce PLC, the workforce reduction is part of a “drive for pace and simplicity with a proposed restructuring that will deliver improved returns, higher margins and increased cash flow.”

On the other hand, in an announcement issued today to clarify the confusion, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars claims to be “on a roll,” as a company “in excellent health and enjoying sustained global success across its model range,” with no plans for job cuts.

“Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is the world’s leading luxury manufacturer,” said CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös. “We are enjoying a period of sustained success, underlined by our stated long-term, sustainable growth strategy. The company is in great shape and I applaud the skilled men and women in the Rolls‑Royce family at Goodwood and around the world that design, develop, hand-build and support the ‘best car in the world.’”

So at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, at least, it doesn’t sound like the cognac—or the cars—will stop flowing any time soon. And there’s apparently no need to suspend your efforts to save up for a down payment on that Phantom.

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