23 November 2007


In the 1920’s Karl Maybach started making expensive limousines. During World War II, Maybach built tank and boat engines. After the war, the German economy could not support a premium automobile and production never resumed. Only 1,800 were made over 20 years which wasn’t too shabby for the time I’d imagine. The brand disappeared until the 21st century when Mercedes Benz resurrected it to be the ultimate luxury car. Has it worked?

As a car: Apparently it is fast considering it’s size. However, it’s Ride & handling is less composed than you would expect from a limousine at this price. It is very expensive to buy and own (no surprise there then). Each is hand made and be specified to your taste. They are so roomy, even the rear seats recline.

Sales: 2002: 900, 2003: 550, 2004: 250 2005/06: 300 each year, 2007 Jan-Oct 260. In comparison, Rolls Royce sold 800 last year and will nudge 1,000 this year. Bentley has in excess of 10,000 in it’s sights for ’07. (To be fair, Bentley sales include the ‘down market’ Continental range).

Now 29 of Maybach’s original 71 US dealers have given up their franchises; in turn, Mercedes has offered compensation to those dealers. Maybach dealers spent up to US$500,000 apiece to build dealerships. But US sales never approached the goal of 600 units per annum. In 2006, Mercedes sold 146 Maybachs in the US.

Why has it failed? It’s a limited market anyway, Bentley & RR have more established names and Maybachs are downright ugly to many including yours truly. To think that it could sell the numbers MB thought is amazing. It probably hasn’t cost MB too much as they do not appear to have put much money into it. Why don’t they just put it out to pasture and the old marque slip back into history and leave it in peace.

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