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Daimler Kills Maybach Brand Ahead of Schedule

German ultra-luxury brands dies a second death.

by on Aug.17, 2012

Daimler tried to save the Maybach brand with the 2010 launch of the Zeppelin, which even had an optional, $10,000 automatic perfume atomizer.

Daimler AG has officially called it quits on the grand plan to create a luxury car brand to rival the likes of the vaunted Rolls-Royce and Bentley. The German maker has “discontinued” production of all Maybach products.

The question is whether anyone other than the media will notice.  Despite its most ambitious efforts, the Maybach marque barely generated 10% to 20% of the sales the maker had ambitiously anticipated, apparently leading Daimler to pull the plug even earlier than originally expected.

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The end came almost exactly a decade after Maybach made its splashy U.S. launch, a helicopter sent to pluck the first of the massive vehicles off the QE2 ocean liner as it entered the Hudson River and deliver the sedan to a media introduction in New York City.

The Maybach name actually dates back to the early days of the auto industry.  The big “M” logo adorned one of the most prestigious products of pre-War Germany.  But it was little more than a footnote in automotive history when Daimler decided to bring it back.

“That’s why we had this event,” former Mercedes brand boss Jurgen Hubbert explained in July 2002, at the New York City launch.  “We are not just presenting the car, but the brand.  After this, the world will know Maybach is back.”

Maybe, but even if potential buyers knew they apparently didn’t care.  At its peak, sales of the brand never topped a couple 100 annually, rather than the 1,000 to 2,000 Hubbert and other Daimler executives had hoped for.

Maybach was actually something of an afterthought.  Daimler originally planned to purchase the Rolls-Royce and Bentley brands when they were put up for sale by their then British owners.  But in a complicated bidding war, BMW eventually landed Rolls and Volkswagen got the rights to Bentley.  Rather than accepting that fate, a confident Mercedes expected it could simply revive Maybach to also play in the ultra-luxury market.

The newly revived brand carried the right price tag, Maybach models starting at $250,000 and up, with each vehicle expected to be heavily customized.  The bigger of the two original models, the M62 featured a unique glass roof that could be electrically transformed from opaque to transparent, as well as the industry’s first business jet-style reclining rear seats.

But underneath, the vehicles were little more than previous-generation Mercedes S-Class sedans. And, over the decade, the underpinnings were never updated.  In a bid to try to keep the brand alive, Daimler simply added more features – and offered new model names, such as the Maybach Zeppelin.  Consumers yawned — and turned to the more established Rolls and Bentley brand.

Going forward, Daimler is expected to try to compete in the ultra-luxury segment with more lavish versions of the S-Class, such as the S600 Pullman coming to market in the 2014 model-year.

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