EU Bans Rolls-Royce's Illuminated Spirit of Ecstasy for 'Light Pollution'
Those of you familiar with vintage motorcars will recall that there was once a period in history where hood ornaments weren’t the classy exception but the rule. Automakers have been affixing their corporate iconography to the top of vehicles since before there were seat belts, tapping members of the animal kingdom, indigenous leaders who opposed the British (back when such things were acceptable), winged letters of the alphabet, rocket ships, and just about everything else one could imagine wanting to stick atop an automobile. But most of those have been modified to suit the times and/or relocated onto the grille in an effort to avoid impaling pedestrians (Ed. note: And perhaps theft. I think my grandparents had the hood ornament stolen off their mid-’90s era Buick once. — TH).
While a few companies attempted to get around government safety regulations by implementing flexibly mounted hood ornaments designed to avoid stabbing the person you’ve already done the disservice of hitting with your car, just about all of them have given up the ghost by 2020. The only notable exception is Rolls-Royce, which has spent a fortune designing a spring-loaded device that snaps its famous Spirit of Ecstasy (aka the Flying Lady) down inside the engine bay whenever a moderate amount of force is applied.
The company has since decided to update its ornament to allow drivers to retract it on demand. It has also started offering a £3,500 option that makes Spirit of Ecstasy an illuminated crystal bauble that has suddenly run afoul of the European Union’s new light pollution regulations. Rolls-Royce will need to remove it from its brochures and customers will be forced to neuter their vehicles if they want to be compliant with the law.
“In February 2019 we sent our dealers a bulletin saying we were removing the option of an lit Spirit of Ecstasy. It was no longer to be sold to customers. It came off the options list,” a Rolls-Royce spokesman told The Daily Mail. “Sadly, we are telling our customers that we will by law have to disconnect their Spirit of Ecstasy.”
The latest hubbub seems to stem from dissatisfied owners who don’t see any good reason to modify their mega-luxury vehicles based on regulatory guidelines focused on seemingly innocuous design choices. Unlike some other outlets that mocked Rolls-Royce owners as decadent capitalists and sarcastically treated this as a non-problem, we’re incredibly interested in how this might impact future automotive designs. The guidelines for what lighting applications constitute a “statutory nuisance” in the EU seem terribly vague. Once complaints of light pollution have been made, regulators need only to assess whether the glow in question serves any purpose. This has made everything from holiday decorations to security lights (business or domestic) subject to new restrictions.
That also makes Rolls-Royce the first automaker we’re aware of that’s being forced to change anything in Europe. But we’re betting it won’t be the last. Tons of manufacturers have added illuminated accents to the exteriors of their products in recent years. Mercedes-Benz will even sell you a Three-Point Star that lights up, assuming you haven’t already purchased one from the dozens of aftermarket firms offering the same item. All of that sounds as if it could easily be in violation of EU regulations if the right person complains.
As for those troubled Rolls-Royce customers, the company said it would happily swap out their glistening Flying Ladies for a traditional Spirit statuette and refund them £3,500 used to purchase the now-illegal option. But new vehicles won’t be sold with them anymore. Moving forward, Rolls intends on using the standard double R emblem by itself and retiring the Flying Lady.
[Image: Rolls-Royce/BMW Group]
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