More stories related to 2005 NAIASDETROIT – Rolls-Royce Motor Cars had its best sales year of strictly Rolls-Royce branded cars in 14 years, and sales of its redesigned Phantom that debuted at the auto show here two years ago are up 164% compared with last year, the company’s sales and marketing director says.

That’s true, but like a privileged son brought up to be CEO who only has made vice president, the Phantom, so far, has been a disappointment.

The reality behind the spin is that sales of the highly touted Phantom, which has a base price of about $329,000, have not lived up to expectations from the start and have fallen far short of the company’s stated goal of selling 1,000 cars in 2004, hitting just 792 worldwide last year.

Rolls-Royce Marketing Director Howard Mosher ignores the missed target in his comments to journalist at this year’s North American International Auto Show and, instead, chooses to accentuate the positive.

“We are extremely pleased with this result, which proves that there is strong demand for the Phantom,” he says.

In early 2004, BMW AG, DaimlerChrysler AG and Volkswagen AG had high expectations for the ultra-luxury market and the $300,000-plus Rolls Royce, Maybach and Bentley brands, respectively, that they sell.

Only one, however, VW’s more diverse Bentley, seems to be making good on expectations, with sales topping 6,000 units last year. The U.K. luxury marque says customers are waiting up to six months to take delivery of a Continental GT and up to 12 months for an Arnage.

DC, meanwhile, predicted sales of 1,000 units in 2004 for its $300,000-plus Maybach and has fallen far short of its sales goals.

In addition to trying to spin last year’s sales results, Mosher uses the press conference to show off the 100EX Convertible concept, first shown at the Geneva motor show last year. In November, Rolls-Royce announced it would build a new convertible model based on the design of 100EX in 2007. (See related story: Rolls to Build Phantom-Based Convertible)

The convertible will be powered by the same V-12 engine as the Phantom and use the same aluminum spaceframe structure. It will be hand-built at the company’s manufacturing plant in Goodwood, U.K.

Bentley might beat its former sibling to the punch, since it plans to announce it will produce its Arnage Drophead convertible concept at the Geneva show later this year, with production expected to begin in 2006. (See related story: Bentley Confirms Drophead Build)

dwinter@primediabusiness.com