When it was introduced several years ago, Mercedes’ ultra-luxury Maybach line was originally intended to compete with offerings from BMW’s Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen’s Bentley. To put it mildly: Maybach flopped, selling only a fraction of the cars Rolls and Bentley did year after year. Maybach was such a spectacular failure that many industry analysts predicted Mercedes would discontinue the brand altogether.
They were wrong, and Mercedes has confirmed that green is the new fast, committing to a series of new Maybachs that tick all the
right green boxes.
Read more about the whys and hows of Mercedes’ greenwashing of Maybach, after the jump.
The first question is the obvious one, of course—and I asked it, myself: if Maybach is such a dismal failure why continue the brand at all?
The answer: Maybach is profitable.
Despite selling fewer than 300 cars per year, the Maybach brand generates a healthy operating profit—which makes sense, when you consider that the cars are essentially gussied-up versions of the previous S Class Mercedes, sold from 1999-2006. All the tooling was paid for long ago, and—with a new S Class looming in 2012—Mercedes has to do something with the current platform, right?
Enter: Joachim Schmidt—a Daimler board member who has (up to now) been running MB’s sales and marketing in the MidEast and China. Schmidt thinks there are plenty of new opportunities to grow the ultra-luxury Maybach brand in emerging markets (think: BRIC countries), and there is an obvious platform for Maybach’s revival: the current, worlds-ahead-of-Rolls-and-Bentley Mercedes-Benz S Class, which is slated for replacement in 2012.
To keep things simple, future Maybachs are likely to be powered by the same bi-turbo V-12s used in the current Maybach and S Class Mercedes. What’s interesting is that, while those engines deliver more than 850 lb-ft of torque and the cars accelerate like Ferraris, Daimler seems to be touting a new, more fuel-efficient 7-speed transmission that can be mated to an electric motor, making the Maybachs into super-quiet, plug-in EVs for up to ten miles (as seen in the S500 hybrid concept from last year, below).
What is interesting to me, and why I am pulling the story to connect with my earlier Bugatti Galiber post, is that Mercedes feels a need to mention the hybrid possibilities of a new Maybach at all.
Despite the fact that most Maybach owners could care less about the cost of fuel or conspicuous consumption, it seems that Mercedes is acknowledging—however quietly—that a big, bruising V12 that sucks down dinosaur juice while it shreds tires is rapidly becoming the sort of white elephant that would keep its owners from being invited to the important parties, you know?
Consider the following, direct from Automobile Magazine’s insider source:
The “base” engine delivers about 545 hp, while the S version is good for some 630 hp. Sources claim a 25 percent improvement in European fuel economy testing.
A 25% improvement over a dismal 12 mpg rating is hardly worth crowing about, but there it is. Mercedes seems to think that they can’t sell horsepower without pushing environmental responsibility anymore—and that’s good news for all involved.
SOURCE: Automobile Magazine.