A VW adviser claims Rolls-Royce production will end next summer in a move intended by owner Volkswagen to shift buyers to Bentley and unsettle arch-rival BMW, the Sunday Times reported (11/12/00).

Under the deal hammered out in 1998, Volkswagen bought the Rolls-Royce and Bentley marques but lost the right to the Rolls-Royce name when BMW bought it from aero engines maker Rolls-Royce plc for £40 million. This in turn led to a deal where VW must hand R-R car production rights to BMW on January 1, 2002.

But the newspaper says VW chairman Ferdinand Piech will take revenge on BMW by halting R-R production and limiting luxury car buyers to its own Bentley marque for at least 18 months before BMW produces an all-new Rolls model at a new factory in Brooklands, southern England.

The Sunday Times quoted a Rolls-Royce and Bentley spokesman as saying: "It is currently the plan to end production of Rolls-Royce before the end of 2002. That's all I can say."

The newspaper says factory workers at the VW-owned Crewe car factory in the east Midlands won't be affected because ditching Rolls-Royce would allow work to start on a new car presently dubbed the 'baby Bentley'.

This relatively low-cost (£60,000) model, aimed directly at BMW's 7-series and the Mercedes-Benz S-class, is expected to take Bentley from a producer of 2,000 cars a year to an annual output of 60,000.