By Chris Haak
Frankly, I’m surprised it has taken this long – but Daimler AG’s ultra-luxury, ultra-slow-selling Maybach brand will again return to the dustbin of history. According to Automotive News, Daimler has decided instead to push the next-generation S-Class upmarket, and an ultra-luxury S600 Pullman will fill the void left by Maybach’s departure. It’s remarkable that the brand held onto its second life even as long as it did – with me predicting its demise four years ago (and again three and a half years ago). The conclusion was all but certain then, but the timeline was a surprise.
Re-introduced in 2002 with just two models, the 57 and 62, Maybach failed to catch on with its wealthy target audience. In 2011 year to date, the company has sold about 44 cars in the United States; though of course they’re all high-margin vehicles, it’s hardly worth the attention of Daimler’s management for that kind of volume. And let’s not forget the brand’s dealers, who each were asked to make about a half-million dollar investment in their franchises; it seems that only Mahindra’s US dealers got a worse deal for their franchise fees.
The S-Class of 2013 will offer three wheelbase lengths, up from two today, and the longest of the three, the S600 Pullman, will take the place of the Maybach in Daimler’s lineup. In nearly all respects, it should be a superior car to the Maybach of today, and likely more efficient, better performing, and quite a bit less expensive.
Likely reasons for Maybach’s failure are numerous. The chassis dates to the 1991-vintage S-Class, the car’s looks are very unexciting, pricing is ridiculous, and the cars are lacking some key technology that newer cars have. It stands to reason that potential Maybach buyers might be put off by the fact that the car’s strongest competition is sitting in the Mercedes-Benz showroom just down the road, in a car that is superior by most measures, and which sells for a considerable discount against Maybach’s pricing. And we’re not even mentioning the completely hokey Landaulet (which goes for a cool $1.35 million USD).
It’s doubtful that anyone will shed a tear when Maybach exits stage left with the launch of the, aside from the brand’s surely-frustrated dealers. Had the deal with Aston Martin to develop the next-generation Maybach lineup come to fruition instead of collapsing, we may be having a different conversation today, but in the end, the current formula just isn’t working, and Daimler decided that it was best to just throw up the white flag and leave Maybach for dead. Again.