How Rolls-Royce Got Its Rebound

New boss BMW restored the luster, while Asia restored the demand for ostentation

Rolls Royce Moter Cars Ltc.

A “Drophead Coupe” is crafted at the Rolls Royce plant in Sussex, England.

Toward the end of every calendar year, Ian Robertson puts his small arsenal of expensive fountain pens into overdrive. That's when Rolls-Royce Motor Cars sends a yearbook to customers who have purchased a Rolls since Jan. 1, 2003, when production began under the German automaker BMW. As head of Rolls-Royce, Robertson personally signs each book's accompanying cover letter. The bespoke touch is appreciated by the company's superrich clientele--which numbered 2,800 when Robertson performed the task last year. "With that many customers," he says, "I could just about do it."

This year Robertson may need an autopen. The iconic British car company is...

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