The new year marks 10 years since Rolls-Royce delivered its first Phantom. It is also the 10th anniversary of the Goodwood manufacturing facility, built especially for the flagship saloon.
At precisely 12:01AM January 1 2003, the first Phantom sedan was completed, and presented immediately to its new owner.
The milestone is significant not only because it represents a relative eternity in model lifetimes, but also because the Phantom was the first new product to emerge from BMW’s 1999 takeover of the renowned UK marque.
With the responsibility of being Rolls-Royce’s sole model line until the smaller Ghost appeared in 2010, the Phantom project was make-or-break for BMW Group’s significant investment in the venture.
This investment included the construction of a new Goodwood manufacturing and development hub in Chichester, UK, which has since been established as the ‘Home of Rolls-Royce'.
Since its opening, the plant has expanded twice and now employs more than 1400 staff - up from less than 400 initially.
Aided also by the Ghost model line, these additional models have seen production at the Goodwood facility grow from an initial one vehicle per day to the current peak of 20 vehicles per day.
More than 5000 Phantom badged models have been produced to date, and the sedan lineup received its first significant update in 2012.
This success came despite the Phantom’s initial local price jumping from the Silver Seraph’s 2002 local MRP of $545,000, to a (then) luxury real estate rivalling $935,000.
The 2003 Phantom shared little more than its ‘spirit of ecstasy’ bonnet ornament with the Silver Seraph that preceded it, helping it stay fresh enough to avoid styling updates until the subtle revisions made in early 2012.
This 10-and-still-counting run may be double the model cycle employed by most manufacturers, but in Rolls-Royce terms the Phantom remains a relative toddler.
Before its short-lived Silver Seraph (1998-2002) predecessor, the modern classic Silver Shadow and Silver Spirit models were produced for 15 and 18 years respectively.
As to how long the Phantom will continue to be offered is anyone’s guess, but with recent talk of hybrid drivetrains joining the lineup in future, the Phantom could be around for a while yet.