When a Rolls is a sales ambassador

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The Independent Online
From Sir Peter Heap

Sir: In your report about nine British Embassies overseas having Rolls- Royces as their official vehicle ("Foreign roles with luxury perks", 30 June) you ask, "Why, Brasilia?". You quote John Hutton, MP, as describing it as perks for the select few.

As the just-retired Ambassador to Brazil, I confirm we had a Rolls-Royce for my last few months, replacing an eight-year-old and tired Jaguar. It cost Rolls- Royce a lot and the Foreign Office very little. I cared very little about what car I moved around in. I cared passionately about promoting British exports.

I went to great efforts to show off that Rolls-Royce. I took it to Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro (combined population about half that of the UK), as well as Brasilia, to promote sales. At this year's grand prix in Sao Paulo, we raffled rides in it that raised pounds 40,000 for the Cheshire Homes in Brazil (half a personal donation from Britain's Bernie Ecclestone, Mr Formula One) and the car was seen on TV around the world circling the track before the big race. Rolls-Royce were very pleased with that. It followed their expensive launch of sales in Brazil, a big market.

Some may see it as an expensive perk. I did not. I saw it as a chance to display to potential buyers one of Britain's most prestigious products, one that has given its name to the world's first language as a synonym for excellence.

Yours sincerely,

P. W. Heap

London, SW1

5 July