Rolls-Royce will turn to hybrid technology to remain relevant in a marketplace demanding stricter emissions standards, according to Asia-Pacific regional director, Paul Harris.
Speaking with TMR, Mr Harris said that while the carmaker's fuel use has improved immensely with the introduction of the Ghost and Phantom Series II, government pressure will force the introduction of alternative drivetrains.
“The biggest challenge for the brand is ‘is it socially acceptable to be seen driving a Rolls-Royce’? We’ll have to look at alternative drivetrains, possibly hybrid technology,” Mr Harris said.
He noted that diesel power, while fuel efficient, isn’t where the brand is heading, and that the push toward a hybrid-style car came through a study of the feedback from the 102EX full-electric Phantom concept.
“The 102EX was very polarising. Existing Rolls-Royce fans are V12 petrolheads, but journalists and customers new to the brand loved the electric experience," Mr Harris said.
"Phantom usage is usually short distance, which suits an electric car, but in some countries, such as Singapore, there’s no solid infrastructure for recharging.”
He said that while some countries have made rapid progress in supporting electric vehicles, Rolls-Royce couldn’t make cars for single markets.
A hybrid, therefore, fits the bill in meeting expectations from governments, without disappointing customers.
“The desire to go to hybrid is because we think we haven’t got any choice,” Mr Harris said. “Legislation will force us down that route.
"To actually be operative in some markets, we’re going to have to adapt and go hybrid. It may not be an ideal position, but a hybrid does actually sit well with the brand.”
Mr Harris says that hybrids will probably become a side-by-side “tick-box” offering rather than the only choice. But for those worried about Rolls-Royces being massive fuel guzzlers, the shift will help change perception.
“My view, personally, is that it can only build brand acceptance,” Mr Harris stated. “People can’t really recognise what engine powers a Rolls-Royce. Is it a V12? Is it a hybrid? Our engines are silent anyway.”