So, Maybach, as of six days ago, is on its way out, according to Daimler-Benz. Although the cars are pretty overwhelming to behold and definitely showstoppers, I’m not shedding that big of a tear. Yes, I finally got to drive one a few months back, and yes, I did enjoy it. But, when I look at just how the marque has performed in the market over the past decade, my general feelings about the brand have become more evident. Mercedes-Benz was very ambitious in launching the Maybach name, but not every name can be successful, and here are my thoughts on why I don’t think it succeeded.
First, let’s take a look at the numbers. Mercedes-Benz initially desired Maybach to sell around 2,000 cars a year. For a car that started at over 300 large new, that’s a pretty lofty target. Unfortunately, they fell very far short of that goal, and only sold a few hundred per year. In fact, in the United States alone, Maybach has sold a paltry 1,112 units through 2010. They haven’t made many more than 2,000 cars in the past decade or so either, while Bentley delivered nearly 5,000 in 2010 alone and Roll-Royce even managed to sell about 3700 worldwide last year. With these numbers, Maybach hasn’t been measuring up despite their cars being, for the most part, just as aristocratic in their image.
There’s more, though. Mercedes-Benz brought out the Maybach in 2002, and has failed to update the basic design since. Bentley, meanwhile, updated the Arnage’s running gear in 2006 or so, and replaced it with the new Mulsanne just this past year. Rolls-Royce has kept the Phantom lineup fresh with new models (the coupe and drophead) over the years. Although Maybach introduced the sport-spec versions of the 57 and 62 mid-decade, they didn’t drum up enough interest, and the 62 Landaulet’s low production numbers aren’t worth mentioning.
Mercedes used a stretched S-Class chassis as the base and built up from there, which was not at all a bad idea at the time, but they failed to substantially update the design during its life, hurting the Maybach’s continued viability in its own market. The styling resembled the S-Class as well, which certainly didn’t help matters. Now, it is true that Bentley and Rolls-Royce use some parts from their parent companies, but they tend to hide much more effectively. Worse, Maybach dealerships were always Mercedes-Benz dealers as well, while Bentley and Rolls dealerships are often separate and exclusive (in fact, they consistently are) from BMW or Audi dealers, meaning that well-heeled buyers would step in the same room as the typical folk who buy Benzes in bulk.
They weren’t marketed right, either. While Bentley and Rolls-Royce are established names, Maybach isn’t as well known over the years. They didn’t advertise as much either, which definitely didn’t help much. Once driven, they’re great cars, but due to the lack of brand recognizance, the resemblance to the S-Class it was based on, and the slow sales, Maybach is gone. For a car that made an incredibly grand entrance back in 2002 in a glass case on the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 in New York, it’s a sad end to a brand who tried to cater to the ultra-rich and didn’t sell enough.