Mercedes-Benz axes Maybach

Mercedes is set to kill the Maybach ultra luxury brand. Shown is the 62 limousine.

Photo credit: Mercedes
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High ranking Mercedes-Benz sources have confirmed to Autoweek that the underperforming Maybach brand will be officially killed off in 2013.

The decision to disband Mercedes-Benz’s upper luxury marque comes after a decade of disappointing sales for the Maybach 57 and 62 and a recent decision from the German car maker’s chairman Dieter Zetsche not to push ahead with the development replacement models – the likes of which were tentatively due out in 2014 – owing to what one insider describes as a “positive move to focus greater attention on the Mercedes-Benz brand” .

“We’ve come to the conclusion that it is better to cut our losses with Maybach than to continue into an uncertain future with a brand that has failed to live up to original sales expectations," the insider said. "Plans are already in place to fill the void left by the axing of the Maybach 57 and 62 with the next-generation S-class, which will be offered in three wheelbase variations and six different body styles, including a top-of-the-range S600 Pullman.”

Mercedes-Benz U.S.A. did not have an immediate comment.

Moves to push Mercedes-Benz further up-market into the segment follows an internal marketing study which came to the conclusion that it has more potential to succeed in the upper luxury segment against competition from the likes of Bentley and Rolls-Royce than Maybach, which despite being revered at home in Germany has failed to gain traction in other key world markets.

At the Maybach’s heavily hyped re-launch in New York in 2002, then-Mercedes-Benz chairman, Juergen Hubbert, said the original business case for the 57 and 62 was based on annual sales of 800--a figure it has apparently failed to ever achieve. In the same time, rivals Rolls-Royce and Bentley have undergone massive restructuring and have seen sales grow to record levels in recent years.

Despite the plan to dump Maybach, both the existing 57 and 62 will be produced through to early 2013, at which point the fifth-generation S-class is due to be introduced. “There is no sense producing beyond this date, as there will no longer be any production synergies," said an Autoweek source familiar with Mercedes-Benz’s plans.

The 57 and 62 are named after their respective lengths of 5735 mm (225.8 inches) and 6170 mm (242.9 inches). Both are based around stretched underpinnings of the third-generation S-class first introduced in 1991. It standard guise they are powered by a 550-hp version of Mercedes-Benz’s twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V12 engine. A more powerful 62 S version also offered with a 621bhp twin turbocharged 6.0-liter V12.

The Maybach brand was resurrected by Mercedes-Benz in 2002 following its failure to purchase Rolls-Royce and Bentley from then owner Vickers after being outbid by Volkswagen, which then ceded control of Rolls-Royce to BMW. A recent proposal to involve Aston Martin in the development of future Maybach models was abandoned in early 2011.

You can reach Greg Kable at awletter@crain.com.

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