Many enthusiasts know that the beloved (or not so beloved) Maybach brand is bound for the junkyard by next year, but what went wrong? Introduced in 2002, Maybach was Mercedes’ answer to an ultra-luxury Rolls and Bentley competitor, a car whose destiny lay in the hands of a chauffeur more-so than the owner. Call it rushed or plainly just not well thought out, but Maybach’s aging underpinnings and crawling approach to innovation would ultimately help spell out its demise. Most modern interpretations of Maybach were formed in hip-hop music videos rather than being rooted in its largely unknown history.
Starting off as technical director of Daimler at the beginning of the 20th century, Wilhelm Maybach would eventually leave to pursue his own endeavors. His efforts first revolved around aircraft engine manufacturing, including those for the famous classic Zeppelin (a moniker that would be applied to special edition models of recent past). Working closely with his son, Karl, Maybach produced an experimental car in 1919 with production versions landing on various European auto show floors in the early 1920’s. What would follow would be a series of highly opulent vehicles sold through to the 1940’s, vehicles that graced the affluent and bustling enclaves of major world cities. You can imagine that these cars were likely as rare and as much a statement as they are today. Eventually, WWII came knocking down the doors of Maybach, switching any and all automotive manufacturing to tank production; the brand never recovered. And while a global war isn’t demanding the production of artillery (can you imagine a leather-lined, wood-trimmed tank?), its current fate is similarly expeditious.
Unlike the custom construction of its past life (the case for most cars those days), today’s Maybach was more of an adaptation than its own soul. Built upon the last generation S-Class platform, which was still pretty new in 2002, Maybachs came in two base flavors, the 57 and 62, or essentially short and long wheelbases. Long story short, limousine-worthy length was dropped onto the S-Class chassis, its motor was juiced with forced induction and all weight scales were given a blind eye. This is a good place to note that despite tipping the scales at over 6,000 pounds, these cars were quite sprightly, with 0-60 times at only about 4-5 seconds depending on variant.
The design scheme on these cars were fairly well-received, with praise given to its exotic and distinctly luxurious accent lines and rear, and criticism given to items such as its over-compensating headlight design. Inside it was all gloss and “shi shi.” As Rolls-Royce was beginning to implement a less-is-more type of luxury, Maybach stuck to an overtly luxurious strategy. Don’t take all of these words as criticism, though, because Maybach interiors really are beautiful and very much worthy of ultra-luxury status. But, anyone who is familiar with Mercedes will notice really how similar it is to the previous generation S-Class. An issue? Not necessarily, seeing as how the S-Class is a wonderful and benchmark luxury sedan. But, it looks like Mercedes won’t try to hide the similarities in the future as it utilizes existing badges and branding rather than the botched co-branding attempt of Maybach.
So, how bad did it really get for Maybach’s bank balance? A bit worse than many thought. It turns out that Daimler had invested upwards of $1.3 billion into the Maybach brand, losing up to $500k per car. Let’s just say that any time a lot of hundreds sold are really supposed to be thousands, it’s usually not a good sign financially. So, while it is hard not to turn this whole write-up into one scathing critique, it should be remembered that while the Maybach brand was a failure, it did manufacturer venerable ultra-luxury cars with the most exclusive options available in any car. Next time you spot one, take a long hard look because it could be your last. And while the majority of our cars are high-performance exotics, don’t forget about our Bentley Continental Flying Spur for your next luxurious getaway, event or night out on the town.