UK-based luxury carmaker Rolls Royce and Bentley Motor Cars chief executive Tony Gott will be leaving the company by 'mutual consent' to 'pursue new challenges' it was announced today.

Tony Gott joined the company in 1984 as a senior designer and held a number of positions within engineering before becoming chief executive in 1999.

The Volkswagen-owned company is scheduled to hand the rights to the Rolls-Royce marque over to BMW at the end of 2002, leaving Bentley manufacture to stand alone at the Crewe plant.

The divorce of Rolls Royce and Bentley has reportedly caused tensions within the company.

There have been reports that the firm is already concentrating most of its marketing efforts on the Bentley models, even though it has the rights to sell Rolls-Royce for another year. The company is also reportedly keeping a tight grip on its customer list, forcing BMW to start from scratch.

BMW will make a completely new range of German-designed Rolls-Royce cars in a new factory in the south of England while VW takes Bentley in a new direction with a new line-up built in the existing factory at Crewe.

This year the company has been hit by falling demand in the US and has put a third of its workers on a three-day week because US sales had plunged 60 percent in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

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