2013 – End Of The Line For Maybach
Wilhelm Maybach, We Hardly Knew Ye
Wilhelm Maybach may not be a household name, but the world of motoring would be a vastly different place were it not for his ideas.
A German industrialist and engine designer, in the late 19th century Maybach was known in France as the “king of constructors”. Working with Gottlieb Daimler, he helped to develop light, high speed internal combustion engines for use on land, sea and air. The first ever motorbike and motorboats were fitted with Maybach engines, as well as a landmark Mercedes model in 1902.
Maybach died on this day in 1929, but he left behind an enduring legacy. He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1996, has three German technical schools named after him and, since 2002, Daimler AG have produced models bearing the Maybach title.
Yet despite having arguably shaped the future of motoring with his innovations, 2013 will leave a sad mark upon the Maybach name.
The End of an Era
In November 2011 Daimler AG announced their intention to retire the Maybach brand by 2013. It seems that only 3,000 Maybach branded cars have been sold since their 2002 revival. In their efforts to make Maybach a worthy rival to such luxury car brands as Rolls Royce and Bentley, Daimler AG have failed.
Daimler AG first presented a luxury concept car at the 1997 Tokyo Motorshow. This concept would later become the Maybach 57 and Maybach 62 models. The Maybach 57S was added to this lineup in 2005, boasting an impressive 6.0 litre V12 bi-turbo engine.
Yet despite the likes of golfer Nick Faldo acting as brand ambassadors, the Maybach line simply failed to take-off. Worldwide sales of 2,000 were initially predicted with 50% coming from the US. This did not happen, and in 2007 the total number of US dealers was reduced from 71 to 42.
Only 157 Maybach cars were sold worldwide in 2010. Compare this to the 2,711 Rolls-Royce models sold in the same year and you can perhaps understand their decision to throw in the towel.
What Went Wrong?
So why shouldn’t there be a third big name in luxury cars? With their prestigious cars, solid legacy and big-name endorsement, where did Maybach go wrong?
It can’t be the money, as the 2,711 Rolls-Royce vehicles sold in 2010 were similarly priced to the 157 Maybach cars sold in the same year.
The deep impact of the 2008 financial crisis can take some of the blame. Perhaps the first decade of the 21st century was simply a terrible time to introduce another big player to the market. Maybach have history, but the name is hardly synonymous with luxury in the same way as Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Furthermore, it’s not as if the Maybach cars made any effort to engage with their heritage. Whilst the interior of the Rolls-Royce Phantom harks back to their golden era 1930s vehicles, you’ll find no such tributes within any Maybach vehicle.
Some blame the construction, claiming that rather than designing a brand new car from the wheels up, an elongated body was grafted onto an existing S-class chassis, resulting in inferior driving dynamics.
The marketing, too, has since been recognised as a problem area. Perhaps assuming that those who bought a Maybach wouldn’t so much drive as be driven, it seems that the Maybach was never really advertised as the sort of vehicle you could make your own. They even went so far as to insist that journalists accustomed to test driving vehicles should ride in the backseat. That’s hardly going to result in a fair and balanced review.
But maybe the main reason the Maybach line failed was because it didn’t really differentiate too much from Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz brand. It’s telling indeed that the Maybach line will be replaced by the next generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class come 2014.
It’s a shame that a failed car line should tarnish the Maybach name indefinitely. Just remember that the next time you turn the ignition key in your car, in many ways you can thank Wilhelm Maybach for the resulting roar as your engine kicks into life.