Daimler’s Maybach brand of luxury automobiles is coming to an end, and the post-mortems are piling up around the automotive press. The tale of the underperforming luxury ride began in 1919 with the production of its warmly-received W1 concept car.
Successive models were produced up until the buildup to World War II, when the company plunged full-scale into the nazi war effort building tanks. When the allies bombed Friedrichshafen near the end of the war, the Maybach factory was specifically targeted and as a result went out of business.
With the popularity of BMW group’s Rolls Royce and Volkswagen’s Bentley in the 2000’s, Daimler sought to offer a competing ultra-luxury vehicle. The roll-out was ill-fated from the start, alienating journalists by denying them the opportunity to test drive the amenities-laden vehicle themselves.
The company claimed that Maybachs were intended to be driven by chauffeurs, and the only way to truly judge the car was from the back seat.
Fortune magazine added to the criticism by calling Daimler out on the design of the vehicle, perceiving a certain haste in the roll-out: “Mercedes took an aging S-class chassis and plopped an absurdly elongated body on it…rather than develop a new car from the wheels up, as BMW did with Rolls-Royce, or cleverly use the underpinnings of an existing model like the Audi A8 for a new Bentley.”
Further bad news came in the form of sales reports. Between 2002 and 2011, approximately 3,000 Maybachs were sold worldwide, with only 44 units sold in the United States. Daimler’s hand was forced into buying back 29 dealerships in the US even as it struggled to define the brand beyond the German market, where it enjoyed a modest success.
Daimler is expected to fill the Maybach’s void with the Pullman S-Class Mercedes in 2013. In order to liquidate its remaining inventory, the German conglomerate is offering a $100,000 rebate for the Type 57 and 62 sedans.