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Maybach supercar drops Mercedes hood ornament

Mercedes-Benz released more details on the Maybach ultra-luxury car due in 2003, including a shocker - a different hood ornament.

A car's hood ornament is not usually such a big deal, but the Mercedes three-pointed star is one of the world's best-known symbols. Instead, the Maybach hood ornament has a "double M" logo inside a triangle.

The move shows Mercedes tacitly admitting that the three-pointed star is not exclusive enough for the Maybach, which is expected to sell for about $300,000.

At the extreme low end, Mercedes earlier withheld the three-pointed star from the Smart brand.

The Mercedes brand has been moving steadily down-market, in search of higher volume. In the United States, the lowest priced Mercedes is now only $25,595 suggested retail, including $645 delivery, for the 2002 C-class coupe. That is the lowest Mercedes sticker in 15 years. In Europe, the A class is about $20,000.

Fred Heiler, a spokesman for Mercedes-Benz USA Inc., said the decision to make the Maybach brand distinct was based on customer research.

"The conclusion was, if people are going to pay a lot more - double, triple, I don't know how much more it's going to be, over a current Mercedes product, even a high-end Mercedes product - then they want some really special distinction," he said.

Technical features will include:

  • A V-12 engine that produces more than 500 hp and 664 pounds-feet of torque. The engine has two turbochargers.

  • Brake-by-wire technology, which provides a faster brake response.

  • A new type of electronically controlled air suspension that adjusts for different driving conditions.

    Each Maybach largely will be hand-built, and customers will be able to choose from a large selection of features, options, colors and materials.

    There will be two basic versions: standard or long wheelbase.

    Annual capacity for a separate area within the main Mercedes plant at Sindelfingen, Germany, will be only 1,500 cars for worldwide markets.

    Sales in the United States are expected to start in the first half of 2003.

    The double-M Maybach logo originally stood for Maybach Motorenbau, a small manufacturer founded by Wilhelm Maybach. Maybach was a former technical director for Daimler Motor Co., which became Daimler-Benz AG. Under DaimlerChrysler AG, the double-M badge stands for Maybach Manufaktur.

    Wilhelm Maybach's son, Karl, began to produce luxury cars in 1921. The company's flagship model was the Maybach Zeppelin DS 8, the largest German luxury car of the 1930s.

    "We are using the Maybach name to emphasize the unique nature of our future premium-quality product," said Juergen Hubbert, board member in charge of Mercedes-Benz and Smart.

  • You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com

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