Maybach is scheduled to make a return to the market as an …. SUV! The market has seen a flurry of activity in recent years in the ultra luxury SUV market with Lamborghini building the Urus on the Audi Q8 platform, as did Bentley with the Bentayga. Rolls-Royce brought out the Cullinan, Aston Martin has their DBX heading towards the market and have relaunched the Lagonda marque as an electric SUV. Further down the market, Maserati has delivered a twin-turbo Levante along with several special editions and Mercedes-Benz have so far simply used the AMG division to pump up the existing models to 11.
Now though, they plan to go head-to-head with the VW and BMW sourced vehicles with a Maybach SUV based on the recently revised GLS platform. This is the start of a planned expansion of this sub-brand in the Daimler-Benz group with more models expected to come to market. Interestingly though, the Maybach will not be built in Germany or an east European factory – it will be built solely in Alabama! Fans of Mercedes-Benz will remember that when Daimler and Chrysler merged, the Jeep Grand Cherokee was built in Austria whilst the Mercedes-Benz ML series was built in the US leading to excessive logistical costs!
The Maybach will be built at the same factory that built the ML and the newer GLS vehicles, which makes sense if the underpinnings are the same – expect a fork in the production line where a handful move down a different path to be bathed in luxury accoutrements! This factory is currently undergoing a massive rebuild and investment plan because Mercedes-Benz will also use it to expand production of other related vehicles and the new electric powered EQ Series.
Much of the Maybach production is expected to head to China, so the parent company, Daimler-Benz must be a little nervous considering the US started trade skirmish with that country that could add as much as 40% extra on the cost of a vehicle – that was what China applied as a tariff last year in an attempt to counter aggressive moves by the White House. As the Maybach GLS is expected to cost at least US$200,000, having any tariff applied will further limit the market size for the vehicle.
Maybach has had an interesting history, Wilhelm Maybach founded his company as a subsidiary of the famous Zeppelin Airship company and created ultra-luxurious limousines through to the 1940s when car production was stopped to make engines for the war effort. Production was never formally started and when Daimler bought the company in the 1960s, they used the name as a luxury identifier (rather like BLMC did with the Vanden Plas name). Then in the late 1990s they created the distinct 57 and 62 series cars that used seperate designs to other Mercedes-Benz cars. Now, the old marque has slid back to being a badge-engineered shell with a luxury trim package – probably not what Wilhelm would have wanted his cars to be.
It does appear that many other Mercedes-Benz cars will be badge-swapped at the high end of the market segments that they sit in and we hope that buyers see extra value in the Maybach badge and importantly, let’s hope the Chinese economy stays buoyant for a few more years, otherwise this is one badge that will get dropped very quickly.