The Insider

WORDS DON'T COME CHEAP

WHAT’S IN A NAME? ALMOST $1.5 BILLION, AS MERCEDES-BENZ LEARNED WITH ITS DISASTROUS MAYBACH ADVENTURE. STUTTGART’S GIANT ROLLS-ROYCE AND BENTLEY COMPETITOR, DEVELOPED OFF THE W140 S-CLASS PLATFORM, WAS AS TECHNICALLY COMPETENT AND LAVISHLY FINISHED AS ITS RIVALS.

D But at the last minute Daimler management decided the Mercedes-Benz name didn’t have the gravitas needed to compete with the gilded British brands. The three-pointed star disappeared, and the cars, which were to be badged Mercedes-Benz Maybach, became simply Maybach.

Wilhelm Maybach was an engineer who worked with Gottlieb Daimler at the dawn of the automotive age, and built his own luxury cars in the years leading up to World War II. While a revered name among some pre-war car buffs, Maybach meant nothing to anyone else, a fatal flaw in a market segment where credibility is everything. Before Maybach was quietly taken off life support in 2013, Daimler had delivered barely 3000 units worldwide in seven years. One calculation suggests the company lost more than $475,000 on every one it sold.

Daimler is nothing if not determined, however.

Maybach is back. But this time Daimler is leveraging the power of the three-pointed star.

leveraging the power of the three-pointed star.

The new Mercedes-Maybach, which made its debut at the LA Show, is built off a stretched version of the W222 S-Class platform. A second supersized S-Class, codenamed VV222, and likely to be badged Mercedes-Maybach Pullman, will appear at the Geneva Show. The Pullman is said to be a massive 1150mm longer than a regular S-Class, and will have three rows of seating.

Note that while both cars carry the threepointed star, they are called Mercedes-Maybach, not Mercedes-Benz Maybach. The new naming convention clearly positions Maybach as a Mercedes-Benz sub-brand, just as the new Mercedes-AMG GT sports car does for Daimler’s in-house performance operation.

But while the Mercedes-Maybach badging is designed to impart credibility on Daimler’s ultra-luxury models, Mercedes-AMG points to a different role for AMG, which has over the past 30 years morphed from a privately-owned Mercedes tuning shop into a performance engineering division wholly owned by Daimler and capable of developing entire vehicles. 26 wheelsmag.com.au

“Mercedes-AMG will become our Porsche,” says one well-placed Stuttgart insider. The new Mercedes-AMG GT and GT S are genuine 911 fighters, and, like the 911, will be expanded into a range of cars. Convertible GT and GT S models are coming. So, too, is a lightweight, track-focused 911 GT3 rival, tentatively called the GT R, and a more powerful, all-wheel-drive 911 Turbo competitor rumoured to be badged GT 4. There’s even a Mercedes-AMG four-door planned to take on Porsche’s Panamera.

Future Mercedes-AMG cars will be given more visual differentiation from regular Benzes in the form of an all-new grille with vertical bars, a design homage to the iconic 1952 300SL racer. The vertical-bar grille will also appear on all AMG versions of regular Mercedes sedans and coupes, with the exception of the S-Class. And yes, the three-pointed star will be front and centre on all of them.

Daimler sold barely 3000 Maybachs in seven years and lost $475,000 on each one

Alphabet soup

DAIMLER is also playing name games with its SUVs, aligning them with the A-Class, C-Class, E-Class, S-Class car lines. The GLA is Benz’s smallest SUV. Next up is the GLK, and the new version, which is based on the new C-Class platform and appears mid-2015, will be badged GLC.

The ML-Class replacement becomes the GLE and the next GL, the GLS. The iconic G-Class, Mercedes’ original off-roader, stays as it is.