BMW to choose between Aukett and Grimshaw or Hopkins to design high-tech Sussex factory.

Aukett europe is one of two architects understood to be left in the race to design a state-of-the-art factory for car maker Rolls-Royce.

The £60m scheme is shrouded in secrecy, but the second architect is thought to be either Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners or Michael Hopkins and Partners. The fourth shortlisted firm, Abbey Holford Rowe, is understood to be out of the running. All four architects refused to comment.

The project is to be located at a greenfield site at Goodwood Park in West Sussex. Rolls-Royce is planning to relocate there from its current Crewe HQ.

The project is being led by German car maker BMW, which takes ownership of Rolls-Royce’s car division in 2003 and which is keen to provide its new marque with suitably upmarket and high-tech headquarters.

Fritz Fruth, general manager of BMW’s Project Rolls-Royce, said an architect would be selected within the next two weeks. “The contest was entered by four architects. We are in the final stages of the decision, but [the winner] has not been decided,” he said.

The contest was entered by four architects. We are in the final stages of the decision

Fritz Fruth, BMW

BMW spokesman Hubert Bergmann said the Munich-based company wanted a design that reflected both the high-tech reputation of the parent company, and the hand-crafted traditions of Rolls-Royce.

The car maker wants to appoint an architect as quickly as possible so it can begin negotiations with planners at Chichester District Council.

The council has said BMW’s proposal for the greenfield site, close to an area of outstanding natural beauty, is contrary to its development plans. Environmental group the Council for the Protection of Rural England has voiced concern over BMW’s plans.

BMW intends to complete the factory in late 2002 and start car production at Goodwood in January 2003. Under its plans for Rolls-Royce, production will more than double to 1000 cars a year. The factory is expected to employ 350 people.

The relocation will bring Rolls-Royce closer to its south-east England customer base and take advantage of the highly specialised automotive industries centred around Goodwood. BMW is already developing a new model Rolls-Royce.