Rolls-Royce Logo Meaning: How BMW Won Flying Lady From Volkswagen


Rolls-Royce is a British luxury automotive brand, owned and controlled by BMW. Established in 1904, the Rolls-Royce brand has covered a journey of over 100 years and has seen a number of ups and downs, including its transition from an independent brand to a subsidiary of BMW. Given its long presence in the market, the Rolls-Royce logo is an instantly recognizable piece of visual art. Even more interesting is the Rolls-Royce logo meaning and the history of transfers. Read on for more.

Rolls-Royce Logo PNG

Rolls-Royce Emblem 640X400
Rolls-Royce Logo PNG

Rolls-Royce Motorcars Logo Information

Founded 1904
Founder Charles Rolls
Henry Royce
Headquarters Goodwood, West Sussex, England, United Kingdom
Official website
Owner BMW
Logo Creator Charles Robinson Sykes

Rolls-Royce Logo History

Rolls-Royce logo is quite simple yet elegant with two R letters superimposed on each other, referring to the company founders. The choice of color for the letters is black against a white background which represents the grace, class, and excellence of the product. The white color represents elegance and purity. The company name is also enclosed in the rectangular emblem that looks professional, sophisticated, and relevant even after so many years.

An identical logo in a blue and white color scheme is used by Rolls Royce which makes power and propulsion systems.

Rolls-Royce Logo meaning on car

Rolls-Royce Emblem: Incomplete without the Flying Lady

No discussion about the Rolls-Royce car logo is complete without the Flying Lady hood ornament that adorns the vehicles. The bonnet decoration ornament is officially called “Spirit of Ecstasy” and represents a forward-leaning woman with arms stretched behind her and billowing clothing flowing in the wind, effectively resembling wings. The figure simply represents the spirit of the car has “selected road travel as her supreme delight” and also signifies prominent attributes of the car such as speed without vibration and silence in the cabin even at high speeds.

Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy

Rolls-Royce Logo Meaning and History

The Spirit of Ecstasy was commissioned in 1910 by Claude Johnson – the then-managing director of the company. Johnson turned to sculptor Charles Sykes who had earlier created a private emblem on similar lines for Baron John Montagu for his 1909 Silver Ghost. Sykes chose Eleanor Velasco Thornton as the model for the figurine named “The Whisper”. The figurine depicted Thornton in fluttering robes with one forefinger against her lips, symbolizing her secret love affair with Montagu.

Fun Fact: Henry Royce was not a fan of the ornament and was of the view (not entirely incorrect) that the mascot impaired the driver’s view.

Nevertheless, the ornament became a permanent fixture on Rolls-Royce cars and is now complete with a mechanism to retract the flying lady into the hood. The system also automatically retracts the ornament if it is struck or tampered with to prevent theft.

Rolls-Royce: Volkswagen had a car, but no engine

Although it shares the same name, the BMW subsidiary Rolls-Royce Motorcars is not a direct successor to the original Rolls-Royce automaker. The current-day Rolls-Royce is an independently developed automaker by BMW and the original Rolls-Royce was passed on to Volkswagen. Here is more to the Rolls-Royce logo meaning and history.

In the long and convoluted history of Rolls-Royce, the company diversified into aero-engine manufacturing and did very well for decades before falling to mismanagement which led to liquidation in 1971. The automotive and aircraft engine manufacturing businesses were split and the automotive business was sold to British engineering group Vickers in 1980. Vickers, which had also purchased Cosworth automotive engineering group, decided in 1998 that it had enough of the automotive business and decided to sell both businesses.

Rolls-Royce Badge on car

Since BMW was already supplying engines and other components to Vickers for Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars, it was a natural buyer. However, its offer of GBP340 million was dwarfed by Volkswagen’s GBP430 million winning offer. While Volkswagen acquired pretty much everything including vehicle designs, manufacturing plants, Spirit of Ecstasy, and Rolls-Royce grille shape trademarks, it didn’t get the rights to use Rolls-Royce insignia and the brand name. These rights belonged to aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce plc which sold the names to BMW for GBP40 million.

BMW had a terrific advantage as it could terminate the engine supply agreement to the new owner with just 12 months’ notice which was too little time for Volkswagen to develop its own engine. BMW made full use of the opportunity and forced Volkswagen to the negotiation table.

Rolls-Royce Emblem

Subsequently, Volkswagen and BMW agreed to an arrangement that allowed Volkswagen to maintain exclusive rights to the Rolls-Royce name until the end of 2002. For the following years, BMW had full rights to use the Spirit of Ecstasy and grille shape trademarks. So, BMW put together a brand new production facility in Goodwood, West Sussex where the company’s first offering Phantom was produced.

The automotive world is full of such instances when money power succumbed to smart brains! The final twist in Rolls-Royce logo history just proved that once more.


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