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Maybach Runs Out Of Gas & Road

Sunday November 27th 2011

In the mainstream of luxury cars we can split the sector into various smaller categories: Limousine, Executive & Sports.
Here we are not following the sports section as that is a complete class on its own, however, we do see several points of intersection between Limo & Executive.
The main contenders in both groups can be seen as AUDI (VW), BENTLEY (VW), BMW, JAGUAR (TATA), MAYBACH & MERCEDES BENZ (DAIMLER), & ROLLS ROYCE (BMW).
(I apologise to any other marque that believes it belongs to this super elite & did not get included).
It used to be said that Audi was a poor man’s Mercedes, however, that is no longer the case. Ever since the advertising slogan of “Vorsprung Durch Tecnik” was coined & Mercedes Benz was dragged down the quality tables by the disastrous JV with Chrysler, one has seen the Mercedes Benz brand loose some of its sparkle. Of course under the stewardship of CEO Dieter Zetsche the slide has stopped, but still the cars such as the C and the E were seen as having too little room in the rear; a complaint that formerly was only levelled at the BMW 3 Series.
At the top end in the limo sector of the luxury market there were 3 principal protagonists seeking to capture enormous cash outlays by leaders in their field. Audi led with the A8, BMW offered the 7 Series and Daimler  provided the iconic Mercedes Benz S Class. (The least said about the VW Phaeton the better).
It was really a question, of “one paid ones money and took ones choice”.

There was not much to choose between the 3 leading vehicles. All could be built on a long wheel base & each could be fitted out in a bespoke style. All offered similar technical abilities although the author had been told by many professional contract chauffeurs that the A8 was the best built, the 7 Series the best to drive & the S Class the best to be driven in.  Supporters of the new Jaguar XJ may wish to challenge that view.
However, BMW had an even higher product to offer in the form of Rolls Royce…and VW who own Audi could present the high end consumer with Bentley. So rather than be left out in the cold, it was only a matter of time before Daimler joined the super limo club with Maybach. A brand last seen on the road in the 1930′s and 40′s.
The trouble was though that the Maybach was like an S Class on steroids. Yes it was trimmed out in a more superior manner however, it was, however,  under the skin extremely close to an S Class & apart from the hood ornament, it did look strikely like an S Class vehicle, why it was built on a parallel production line.  Bentley & Rolls Royce were brands of global pedigree, Maybach was only known inside Germany and did sadly, hold difficult historical connections that had been shaken of by other Germanic marques.
In contrast no matter what common elements of engineering a Bentley had with an Audi or indeed a Rolls Royce with a BMW, these 2 super limo’s were seen a completely different cars built in different factories. So Maybach started off on the wrong foot…just look at images of the Maybach 57 or 62…tell me they do not look like an S Class!
Given that Daimler has not turned a penny profit on Maybach since 2002 when it was introduced & given the tough economic climate the world finds itself in is it any wonder that when, in 2013 a new vastly improved S Class is due for launch. Daimler will offer 6 varients & so it has to be concluded that revamping the Maybach that costs $344,000 at entry point is simply uneconomic; on  therefore has to wonder what chance forupdating the Maybach Landaulet semi convertible for sale at just over $1m?
Back in 2009 Daimler said they saw the Maybach as being above the risk of economic dowturn and yet in January this year Mr Zetsche declared,
“…all options are on the table, including getting rid of Maybach altogether. …”
Maybach’s sales figures have never been strong, even in relation to Rolls-Royce or Bentley. Also talks in January that Aston Martin might engineer & style a new model did not progress very far.
Initially, the then “Daimler-Chrysler” predicted annual sales of 2,000 global units with 1000 coming from the US. Sadly these targets were never achieved and in 2007 Daimler bought back 29 US dealers, reducing the total from 71 to 42.

Just look at the path of sales in the US where 1000 units was set as the annula baseline:


2003 166…2004 244…2005 152…2006 146…2007 156…2008 119…2009 66…2010 63

It is a sad end to what could have been a serious challnger to Bentley & Rolls Royce…it just was given the individuality it required.

Could a cash rich foreign motor group step in? Will the brand continue under Chinese or Indian ownership? Surely it would be better to let the old marque retire gracefully, Tata have done wonders with Jaguar, but the Maybach market space is totally different and it will take deep pockets and tremendous patience before ever marginal cost equates to marginal revenue and I do not see Daimler wanting to be a parts provider when it can really focus on the new S Class vehicle.

Stephen Pope ~ Managing Partner



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