Maybach: a chronicle of a grandiose failure. The story of the first Maybach revival that Stuttgart will never forget
On June 26, 2000, the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth II set sail from Southampton to New York. Among the passengers on board was a car enclosed in a huge glass cube. The majestic Maybach 62 was sailing for its own birthday, a world premiere at the Regent Hotel on Wall Street. In terms of plot, it all resembled the story of the Titanic. And the drama, of course, was played out - albeit without shipwrecks and human casualties.
Mercedes-Benz's grandiose attempt to bring a forgotten, elite brand back to life was massive in everything from the money it invested to the aftermath of a market failure. Never before in Stuttgart had they received such a painful slap in the face. The first return of the Maybach could well be called a German remake of the Edsel disaster.
Until the forties of the last century, Maybach was considered, perhaps, the most prestigious automotive brand in Germany. Real German Rolls-Royce! True, the Second World War greatly spoiled the reputation of the company. During the war years, Maybach was the main supplier of tank engines for the Wehrmacht.
After 1945, the production of cars at Maybach was not resumed, and in the sixties the company came under the control of Mercedes-Benz. For the time being, the "three-beam" used only the production facilities of Maybach, without even remembering the trademark.
The revival of the brand began in 1997, when Mercedes-Benz showed a conceptual vision of the future flagship Über at an exhibition in Tokyo.
Please note: the Tokyo concept car, created by the Frenchman Olivier Boulay, was called the Mercedes-Benz Maybach. At the top of the grille, a three-pointed star stood proudly, and not the double letter M - the Maybach emblem.
At the same time, the car turned out to be incredibly catchy, emphatically immodest. Given the reputational issues over the W140's bodywork and the new policy taking place in Stuttgart, such an outpouring of luxury was surprising.
It seemed that the Mercedes-Benz Maybach arrived in Tokyo without a clearly defined status. In the autumn of 1997, no one stuttered about the possibility of mass production. Official position: Maybach is a demonstration of design and technological solutions for future flagship models. Extremely vague wording.
The most interesting thing happened behind the scenes. In the second half of the 1990s, the British industrial group Vickers decided to get rid of Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Everyone has probably heard about the epic tug of war that BMW and Volkswagen staged in the struggle for elite British brands. A lesser known fact is that Mercedes-Benz also participated in the auction. But then suddenly fell off the fight.
Why? Did not pull financial requests? Scared of competitors? It is unlikely ... There is an opinion that someone very influential in the Mercedes elite decided to show, they say, we ourselves have a mustache. It is not good for the Germans to get involved with the British heritage. A high-end, hyper-luxe brand can and should be its own.
What is good?
It's easier to ask what was wrong with the 2002 Maybach! And it will be difficult to answer: the engineers and designers of Mercedes-Benz built a car that surpassed the S-Class in all respects.
The body of the W240 is only 12-cylinder twin-turbo gasoline engines. Only the working volume could be different - “only” 5.5 or as many as 6 liters. Already in the base, the cars came with AirMatic Dual Control air suspension, two separate climate control systems, a built-in refrigerator, heating everything and everything, and an incredibly advanced Bose music system at that time.
In a word, Maybach was everything-everything-everything that the technology of that time was capable of. The base model, in absolute silence and calmness, reached a hundred in 5.1 seconds.
What did he look like?
The serial Maybach - or rather, two models 57 and 62 at once - outwardly resembled the Tokyo concept of Olivier Boulet as much as possible. The numbers in the indices meant the length of the car in decimeters. The design developed the theme of the immodest redundancy of the 140th body, in the development of which the French designer also took part.
Later Maybach will be accused of lack of taste and low-brow style. In 2002, however, it did not seem so. Both Maybachs successfully coped with their main task - they looked a head, or even two, taller, richer, more luxurious and, accordingly, more prestigious than any Mercedes-Benz. Which is exactly what needed to be done.
How much did it cost?
Maybach was not modest with the price. When the first BMW-era Phantom hits the market in 2003, the base price of the Stuttgart flagship will be much higher. The minimum entrance ticket to the world of Maybach is $390,000 for the base model 57. The Phantom was cheaper by 40,000. With a large 62nd, the difference in price, of course, was even greater (the long-wheelbase Phantom EWB appeared later, in 2005).
Yes, real buyers of hyperlux are not used to reading the menu from right to left, that is, starting from the price. But if the difference in cost for no apparent reason exceeds 10%, even a millionaire will inevitably think ...
What did they say about him?
The tone of the Maybach talk was like a broken speedometer. At the very beginning, it showed the maximum values, but the farther, the more the arrow fell down.
“It weighs 835 kg more than the Mercedes-Benz E 55 AMG, but even with a mass of almost three tons, Maybach is inferior to the 55th in acceleration to hundreds of only seven tenths of a second! Is it okay if I allow myself to enthusiastically exclaim "Wow"?!
Car and Driver
“Effortlessly efficient on the straight, the Maybach 57S deserves a lot of respect in the corners. Of course, this is not an oversized BMW M5, but the Maybach handles very intelligently and very precisely.”
“Anyway, the Maybach was an incomparably refined and comfortable car. He completely isolated the rear seat passenger from everything that happened outside. Most of the time, there were surprised passers-by outside who didn’t understand why this fat man on the couch bought himself a stuffed Hyundai and not a Rolls-Royce.”
The most unusual feature
Enumerate all the splendor of equipment "Maybach" - a long and tedious task. There were also such shocking options for the beginning of the zero as a transparent electrochromic roof with a dimming function or a retractable 20-inch TV for passengers in the rear sofa. It was possible to order not only a refrigerator, but also a cigar humidor or an aromatic ball dispenser. Or, for example, granite trim. And yet the most fantastic option "Maybach" never became a reality. It's a pity, because it was ... a whole car!
Remember the Mercedes-Benz F400 Carving concept car introduced in 2001? This bright, technically advanced sports car with active suspension, Maybach designer Olivier Boulay, proposed to include serial 57s and 62s in the list of additional equipment! The idea is the following. Usually the Maybach owner is bored in the back seat. If he wants to drive, then in the garage there is always a unique sports Mercedes for the soul, which is not available to anyone except Maybach owners.
Crazy? Great? Or insanely cool?
Why didn't it work?
The reason for the failure of Maybach is difficult to name. There were actually a lot of them. Each is not lethal individually, but in the end, like dominoes, they brought down the grand structure as a whole.
Let us dare to call the main mistake ... the choice of a trademark. In the early nineties, no one, except those who are fond of automotive history, remembered the Maybach brand. When people began to dig into historical facts, they suddenly stumbled upon a chapter where "tigers", "Ferdinands" and "Maybachs" were mentioned in one sentence ...
Betting on a forgotten brand is risky. Perhaps this would have worked. Mercedes-Benz marketers have a talent for convincing the world of their own infallibility. But a year after the debut of the 57th and 62nd, the new Rolls-Royce Phantom entered the scene, and it immediately became clear that the Germans would lose this football match to the British. Or, more offensively, to his sworn friends from Munich, the new owners of the super-luxury brand.
The new Phantom was better in every way. From the name, the significance and prestige of which does not need to be proved to anyone, to the price - much more interesting than Maybach's. "Phantom" exposed all the problems of Maybach. This is the W140 platform, which by the beginning of the 2000s was already showing its age. This is also the design, in which everyone now saw only the exaggerated S-Class.
Do not forget about external factors. In the second half of the 2000s, difficulties began in the Daimler-Chrysler alliance. Mitsubishi threw problems - a loud scandal erupted with the Fuso trucks department, which few people remember now. By itself, without outside help, Smart skidded. To the heap in 2008, the global financial crisis erupted very inopportunely ...
Oh yes, there was also an internal factor. In 2005, the S-Class W221 entered the market - a car so progressive that Maybach was frankly hard against the background of the flagship Mercedes with radars, night vision, all-wheel drive, air or hydraulic suspension. S-Class has actually become the strongest independent brand. Something, or rather someone, had to be sacrificed. And Maybach came under a hot hand.
Will it become a classic?
With a circulation of about 3,000 copies, it is only a matter of time. And although not one of the Maybachs of the "first convocation" even reached the age of the youngtimer, the prices are already showing complete confusion and vacillation - both on the domestic market and abroad. And speculation is a sign of great interest.
The lower limit starts from 50 thousand dollars for the usual 57th. More rare "eski" and exclusive "Zeppelins" sellers put up for tens of millions. It is not clear who needs it, but the ads are hanging ...
Ten years ago, for every Maybach sold, the Stuttgart accounting department was losing an incredible $440,000. We believe that for seven years on the market, models of the Mercedes-Maybach sub-brand have more than compensated for all losses.
At the same time, one must clearly understand that on Maybach maintenance alone, you can safely go broke. Thermostat - USD 1000, brake disc - from USD 1600, generator - USD 17000. What to do - the elite ...
The history of the first revival of Maybach is not only a loud fiasco, but also a textbook example of how to admit and correct mistakes. The management of Mercedes-Benz made the right conclusions.
As a separate brand head and shoulders superior to the status of a three-pointed star, Maybach ceased to exist back in 2012. But just three years later, the Mercedes-Maybach sub-brand appeared, which more than successfully sells top variants of the S-Class. It's funny that, in essence, the Maybach business model has not changed much. They just corrected the market positioning and price in Stuttgart. And things started right away.
Do not forget one more non-obvious, but important consequence of that story. It was for the Maybachs that turbochargers were hung on the Mercedes atmospheric V12. And then this engine was returned back to the S-Class. Versions of the S 600 and S 65 AMG received it during the restyling of the W220 generation in 2002. The total circulation of these machines is negligible "on the scale of the world revolution." However, Pandora's box opened just then. The arms race (or rather, the power-to-power ratio), unleashed by Stuttgart twenty years ago, is still ongoing. She gave the world a lot of cars, which sometimes devalue the existence of supercars. And it will end only with the sunset of the gasoline era.
Recall that the S 65 AMG had 612 horsepower and 1000 Nm of torque (already from 2000 rpm). This is before the iPhone and Facebook, before the Bugatti Veyron, before all shoes turned into sneakers, and music into rap. Before Tiktoker without a Lamborghini was no longer considered a success. We assume that the potential of that motor for boosting has not yet been disclosed. To make such a phenomenon the norm - for the sake of this, "Maybach" was worth resurrecting.