It wasn’t just the story but also its placement: down in the lower right hand corner, below the required “postal notice” and list of advertisers for that issue, in an article four column inches long on page 37 of the automotive trade publication Automotive News. The title reads “Maybach output ends ahead of schedule.”
Just as the Dalai Lama was hustled out of the White House past the bags of trash, the report on Maybach’s earlier-than-planned departure was sqeezed in with less fanfare than a student presenting a failing report card to Dad.
According to the article, Daimler AG has ended production of the superluxury brand at least a half year earlier than its previously announced schedule. Daimler said in November 2011 that Maybach production would stop in 2013 when the new Mecedes-Benz S-class arrived.
A spokesman for Daimler declined to give Automotive News an explanation for the early termination of production, which ended in June.
The superluxury Maybach, positioned above the Mercedes-Benz S-class, debuted in 2002, arriving in Mahattan, after crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Elizabeth, via a glass box suspended beneath a helicopter flying over the Hudson River. As entries go, they don’t get much more spectacular than that.
The car was Daimler’s answer to being shut out of the soap opera that saw BMW engines in Bentleys and the whole foofaraw that saw Volkswagen getting Bentley and BMW getting the Rolls-Royce name.
Daimler, if it couldn’t play in the luxury Brit car game, would build its own new ultra luxury line.
To do so, Daimler reached back into its own heritage for a name that spelled wealth and privilege when BMW was a German knockoff of the British Austin 7, the car that put England on wheels, and VW was another way of saying “people’s car.” From 1921 through 1941, Maybach was a peer to the most expensive Mercedes-Benz models.
Reintroducing the Maybach name, Daimler (or actually the “DaimlerChysler Group” at the time) said that the two brands of Mercedes-Benz and Maybach would be “advancing hand-in-hand under the umbrella of the DaimlerChrysler Group.” Said the company, “Mercedes-Benz will be the technological pace-setter and the world’s most successful manufacturer of premium cars in high-growth market segments. Maybach will be the brand for first-class, extremely individual, high-end luxurious and prestigious sedans, which combine technical perfection with innovative Mercedes technology.”
The “extremely individual” Maybach came in two basic versions, the 57 and the 62, differing primarily in size, 223 inches and 240 inches (6165mm) long respectively. The 62 was intended to be chauffeur-driven, with reclining rear seats with automatically-extending leg and foot supprts. The Maybach 57 was more of an owner/driver model. The kids don’t need the luxury seating in the back of the 62.
The engine was a twin-turbocharged V-12, from Mercedes’ cupboard, of course, displacing 5.5-liters amd reated at 405 horsepower, a lot bigger number then than now. By increasing the engine size to 6.0-liters, Maybach invented the 57 S and 62 S.
Styling was, well, blimp-like, appropriately enough considering that the top model Maybach in the 1930s was called the Zeppelin. A grille looking like a cross between that of a Mercedes and that a Rolls-Royce, then painted on to the rounded front of the Maybach. It was bland at the beginning and is a shape that hasn’t worn particularly well.
To say that sales were unimpressive is an understatement. Daimler expected to sell 2,000 worldwide annually, with half coming to the U.S. Instead, only about 3,000 total were made, including a Laundaulet model with a ridiculous sliding half top at an absurd premium, added in 2007 with little apparent lack of impact. It didn’t help that, as an object of ostentatious expenditures, the Maybach became associated more with hip hop artists than the captains of industry that Daimler anticipated.
Prices for the 2012 Maybach started at $379,050 for the base 57 model, up to $1,382,750 for the Laundaulet, almost three times as much as the 62 S, the next most expensive Maybach. And that for a model technologically as old as the idea that, as Maybach touted at the time, turn signals in the rearview mirror housings are avant garde.
Maybach’s demise had long been predicted. Now that it has happened, no one seems to have cared enough to notice.