BMW and the VW Group have made a solid business case with the Rolls-Royce and Bentley brands that are part of their respective portfolios, but Mercedes-Benz was spectacularly less successful in its attempt to join this elite party with a modern-day take on the historic Maybach marque (which Merc’s parent company Daimler had owned since 1960).
The vehicles entrusted with relaunching the venerable brand were the Maybach 57 and 62 (the numeric designations were derived from their 5.7m and 6.2m lengths). They debuted in 2002 after having been previewed by the Benz Maybach concept car revealed at the 1997 Tokyo motor show. It probably seemed like a good idea to the Daimler brains trust at the time — after all, there were fat margins to be made in the uber-limo segment, but the 57/62 was let down by poor execution on many fronts.
The most glaring snafu was that the vehicles looked very similar — just a lot uglier — than the W220 Merc S-Class from which they were spawned. Competing in the ultra-premium end of the market requires an offering that stands apart from anything else, so the Maybach obviously failed on this front. It just came across as a tastelessly tarted-up S-Class.
Mind you, the cars came with all the mod-cons you’d expect of an uber-luxury offering, with the long-wheelbase Maybach 62 featuring fully reclining rear seats, AirMatic dual-control air suspension, display instruments in the rear roof liner (showing speed, time, and outside temperature), folding rear tables (left and right), 21-speaker BOSE Surround Everywhere sound system and a refrigerator compartment. But this wasn’t enough to salvage what was a flawed concept in the first place.
Most would-be buyers saw through this half-baked attempt to lure cashed-up oligarchs and rap stars, and sales numbers were dismal over the decade-long lifespan of the 57/62.
Daimler had optimistically forecast 2,000 annual sales for Maybach, but the reality was that just 3,000-odd vehicles wearing the “M” were shifted over 10 years — at a rumoured loss of Dh1.4m each. Ouch!