We admit we pay scant attention to cars where the low-end model pricing “starts” at a quarter million. Buyers for such vehicles rarely, if ever, visit our humble place within the autosphere, never mind swipe their black American Express cards to fill our coffers. But to automakers, this rarified segment is as important — if not more so — as the huge mid-segment cash cow suckled primarily by Toyota, Honda, Ford, and Chevy.
Take Maybach. Daimler’s ultra-lux brand has taken a beating from German rivals BMW and Volkswagen, with their respective Rolls-Royce and Bentley brands, selling only 200 sedans last year compared to Rolls sales of 2,700 and Bentley’s 5,100. Maybach dealerships in the U.S., one of the brand’s biggest markets, plunged from 85 dealers in 2002 to currently 30. Even pop culture luminaries like Madonna and Jay-Z, whose video with artist Kanye West surgically demolishing a Maybach rippled across the autosphere like box office hit Contagion, only brought attention to the brand’s plight.
“The Maybach product was always a non-starter — too big, too ostentatious, too expensive,” Simon Empson, managing director of Broadspeed.com, tells Bloomberg. “I can’t see any future for this marque.”
Well, Daimler sees a future not only for Maybach but for its diminutive Smart brand as well. The automaker looks to turn the latter as a vehicle of choice for the younger, urban crowd. It’s also looking for Smart to help it meet environmental regulations here in the States. For Maybach, Daimler is considering options like a $700 million makeover of the brand, a partnership with Aston Martin, absorbing Maybach into Mercedes-Benz above the current S-Class flagship, or shutting down the brand completely.
Automotive.com take: Though built on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, we think Maybach is unique enough to continue as its own brand. We think a partnership with Aston Martin an excellent viable choice and both should look at the Exelero concept as the starting point for the next-generation cars.