Industrial company manufacturing luxury cars and aeroplane engines. It was founded in 1906 by Henry Royce and Charles Rolls and was later nationalized by the British government in 1971 and then divided from 1973 into two separate business entities.
The motor manufacturing concern was sold off as Rolls-Royce Motors by the UK government in 1973, acquired in 1980 by the engineering company Vickers, and then bought in 1998 by the German car manufacturer Volkswagen. Also that year, however, the BMW Group acquired the rights to the name and the marque for use on Rolls-Royce cars. From 2003 Rolls-Royce Motor Cars became a subsidiary of BMW, while the Volkswagen subsidiary became known as Bentley Motors Limited.
By the 1960s aircraft engines had long been the most significant part of the Rolls-Royce business. However, the early development of the RB-211 jet engine led to serious financial problems and to the company's nationalization in 1971. After its demerger from the automobile sector in 1973, the aero-engine entity continued as a nationalized company until it was privatized in 1987 as Rolls-Royce plc. It has become the second largest aircraft engine maker in the world, with related businesses in the defence, aerospace, marine, and energy markets.
The Silver Ghost car model was designed in 1906, and produced until 1925, when the Phantom was introduced. In 1914 Royce designed the Eagle aircraft engine, used extensively in World War I. Royce also designed the Merlin engine, used in Spitfires and Hurricanes in World War II. Jet engines followed, and became the most important part of the company.