Maybach has long been assumed to be at death's door. The brand is actually profitable on paper since the ramp-up investment has been fully absorbed by Daimler AG. Still, at a homeopathic 200 to 300 units a year, it's hardly worth the continued cost of a special distribution and service network. It doesn't help matters that current Maybachs are based on the previous-generation S-class -- not exactly state-of-the-art. Disillusioned and lacking a clear strategy, previous brand leadership was very close to putting Maybach out of its misery.
But now there's new leadership and new hope. Daimler board member Joachim Schmidt, recently brought back from the Far East to run Daimler's sales and marketing, sees plenty of new opportunities for ultraluxury cars in China and North America, along with the Middle East and Russia. Additionally, there's an obvious platform for Maybach's revival in the form of the next all-new S-class, which debuts in 2012.
The extended Maybach range likely will be comprised of five models, including a four-door coupe and a long-wheelbase convertible (a spiritual successor to the 2007 Mercedes Ocean Drive concept). To keep things relatively simple, all Maybachs will be powered by the same engine: the faithful 6.0-liter V-12 used in Maybach's current 62S and Zeppelin editions. Now putting out a brutal 850 lb-ft of torque, it will be mated to a seven-speed automatic that can accommodate an electric motor good for a little over 20 hp and a zero-emission range of approximately ten miles. In a second step, Maybach will almost certainly switch to an even more efficient nine-speed automatic and offer a more advanced hybrid. The "base" engine delivers about 545 hp, while the S version is good for some 630 hp. Sources claim a 25 percent improvement in European fuel economy testing, but given the current car's abysmal 12 mpg EPA combined rating, these still won't be any shade of green.
A broader approach to the full-size luxury-car segment is essential to fund the second chapter of the Maybach adventure. The next S-class, which itself will be available in no less than six variants, should be able to battle everything from the Hyundai Equus to the Maserati Quattroporte. It will be up to Maybach to compete in Bentley Mulsanne and Rolls-Royce Phantom territory. According to one insider, future Maybach vehicles will not be mere exercises in badge-engineering but "jewels on wheels and at last worthy of the brand."
Time will tell.