BMW takes lead in race for Rolls

BMW has moved into pole position as prospective buyer of Vickers' Rolls-Royce luxury car unit despite talking tough about price, writes David Brierley.

At last week's Belgian motor show in Brussels, Bernd Pischetsrieder, BMW chairman, declared: "I know precisely what I am prepared to pay for Rolls-Royce."

Mr Pischetsrieder's confidence stems from the fact that BMW has a joint venture with Rolls-Royce, the aircraft engine maker that also owns the rights to the Rolls-Royce name.Vickers cannot dispose of its car unit without getting approval from the aircraft engine maker.

Relations between BMW and the Rolls aircraft company strengthened last week, following the signing by their joint venture of a crucial deal with Boeing, under which they will supply engines for the new Boeing 717-200 regional jet.

Described as a "breakthrough" by Klaus Nittinger, chairman of the joint venture, the agreement will double sales and ensure that BMW/Rolls-Royce venture meets its target of breaking even by 2000. "Our opportunities for growth have improved markedly," Mr Nittinger said.

BMW further underlined its conviction that it is closest to snapping up Rolls-Royce by dismissing comments made by Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech.

Mr Piech suggested that the Rolls-Royce and Bentley brands could be split and proposed a deal with BMW. He said, partly in jest: "I would like the less refined brand [Bentley] at half the asking price. The more sporty manufacturer [BMW] needs a more conservative brand. Unfortunately, it could be that everybody wants the same thing."

But a BMW spokesman said: "From our point view, splitting the brands is unthinkable."

Vickers has insisted that Rolls-Royce and Bentley will be sold off together. Despite his joking tone, Mr Piech remains seriously interested. He admitted that Volkswagen's DM1.2bn (pounds 400m) rights issue had been delayed because of the Rolls-Royce auction. He said: "We had to react when Vickers put Rolls-Royce up for sale. Now we want to see the prospectus and see what the show is worth."

Meanwhile,Mr Pischetsrieder's main concern is to ensure that BMW does not pay over the odds. He said: "It is possible that I already have an alternative to Rolls-Royce. Because it is obvious that we have to be in this market segment, with or without Rolls-Royce."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own