FRANKFURT -- Mercedes-Benz's G class is about as sleek as a snow plow, costs more than twice the average U.S. household income and hasn't had a redesign since its introduction in 1979 -- and sales are higher than ever.
Deliveries of the box-shaped car tripled in the past five years to 12,000 vehicles in 2013. The top-of-the-range G 65 with a V-12 engine is the most expensive model in the entire Mercedes lineup.
As the Daimler AG unit restyles the rest of its luxury SUVs, executives say the G class's angular form will stay the same.
"It has to continue as it looks today," Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said last month. "It's not a vehicle that pretends. The G class is the original."
Derived from a military vehicle, the $115,400 off-roader is a lesson in how ignoring trends can pay dividends.
After the planned demise next year of the Land Rover Defender, the G class will be among the last old-school SUVs in production, drawing buyers because it literally stands out in a sea of streamlined cars.
By combining a rugged exterior with interior luxury that includes a dashboard screen the size of a tablet and heated leather seats, Mercedes has made Beverly Hills or the French Riviera the natural habitat of the G class rather than the forest-coated Alpine countryside where it's made.
Among its drivers are the Kardashians, the reality-TV clan who boast a whole stable of G classes, including at least one in matte.
The future of the G class is playing out against a backdrop of change at Mercedes.
The company is fighting a stodgy reputation as it tries to regain its former position atop the luxury-car market -- lost in 2005 to BMW AG.
Zetsche has said he'll do that in part by making Mercedes vehicles sleeker and sportier.
The brand's SUVs are key to that. Sales in the segment rose 12 percent to 324,700 vehicles last year. Mercedes expanded the lineup with a new compact SUV this year, and a sixth model, a coupe version of the M class, is coming in 2015.
The G class is the first off-road vehicle the company made and the most expensive of the lot. The U.S. is its biggest market, with about one-fifth of sales, and more than half the vehicles sold globally are equipped with high-performance engines that bring their base price to $137,150.