Maybach: Time to hit the old dusty trail (Nick’s Take)Posted: November 29, 2011
I have always been a fan of the Maybach since Mercedes brought the brand back in the early 2000’s. I much preferred it’s sleek design to the over bearing brick that is the Rolls Royce Phantom. I liked the limitless options list, and the fact that the 62’s rear seats could be fully reclined (still the most comfortable car I have been in by far). I also loved that the car was offered in two tone color schemes; something there is not enough of these days. Evidently I am in the minority though, because Mercedes has just announced this week that they will be ceasing Maybach production after the 2013 model year. This news came as an initial shock to me, largely because I like the car so much, but I have given some thought as to why it has failed.
I remember distinctly a couple years ago when I pulled up to the Plaza Hotel in New York, to meet my family and some friends. There was a Maybach and an S550 parked out front. I remember it well because I did not notice the Maybach until I walked right next to it and saw the badge; it looked almost identical to the S550. This may be where some of the problems lie. You see, while being so understated, a Maybach is also one of the most expensive and exclusive cars you can buy. It is vulgarly ostentatious, but unlike a Rolls Royce it doesn’t shout about it to everyone. In my review of the 57S, I said that this subtlety was a virtue, but it may also have robbed the car of the presence people spending this sort of money desire.
The Maybach was not an icon like a Rolls Royce. Showrooms were quietly placed in the back of select Mercedes dealerships, and only those who needed to know about them did. The Maybach was not used as an attraction in the window display; it was all about quiet indulgence and exclusivity from the very start. It was actually almost too high end, but it also lacked most of the theatre present in its competitors. I think that was it’s biggest problem. It was a great car in all respects, but there wasn’t really a big sense of occasion. It feels very isolated from the real world inside a Maybach, it’s all business but not really any fun.
Adding to its lack of presence is the fact that it uses the same engine found in the S-Class, as well as using many other Mercedes parts throughout. In fact I would say that it drives like a slightly larger S-Class, and doesn’t feel as unique as it should. I’m not one to be bothered by such things really, in fact I loved the way it’s turbo V12 delivered its power, but I am also not a true perspective customer either. The fact seems to be that while it offered every feature you could ever want in a car, it lacked that special something at it’s very core.
I have to admit that Mercedes Benz offering another brand placed above even themselves was kind of absurd. In hindsight I guess they really didn’t do enough to set the Maybach brand apart. The 57s and 62s were really always marketed as (and viewed as) Mercedes products and not as “Maybachs”. Cars in this range are as much about the experience they offer as about their function as transportation. Mercedes definitely needed to do more to set the Maybach brand apart from themselves, but the issue there is how in the world you go up from the level of Mercedes Benz. It just goes to show that having all the bells and whistles is not enough. I really enjoyed getting to drive a Maybach this summer, especially knowing now that it will soon be gone, but as much as I liked the car there is no remedy for losing money. I see why Mercedes must cut the Maybach brand loose, I am sad to see it go, but looking back it is pretty clear why it had to be done. If anyone brings the brand back in the future, let this be a lesson that new brands require a new and unique identity, especially in the stratosphere of the automotive realm.
PS: here is a piece by 5th Gear showing just how exclusive a car the Maybach is.