By on November 17, 2009

Going over like a lead Zeppelin

To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, the Maybach experiment was a conspiracy between Daimler and the rich to make the rest of us feel smart. The ultimate zombie brand, exhumed during the go-go nineties as a way for Daimler to charge even more for a stretched S Class, has now fallen on troubled times. And now, according to the ever-trusty, none other than Mariah Carey has put the Maybach seemingly irrevocably in its place:

Initially a top class Mercedes complete with a chauffeur was sent to take Mariah to the studios, but this wasn’t deemed exclusive enough for a star of Mariah’s stature and was then replaced by a £250,000 Mercedes Maybach. However the Maybach limo was also rejected and then, third-time-lucky, a Rolls Royce Phantom was dispatched.

Of course the Phantom had to be “decorated with vinyl graphics of butterflies in a nod to the singer’s 1997 album entitled butterfly” before the divine Miss Carey would grace it with her presence, but that’s a topic for a more mental health-oriented forum. Ego-driven eccentricity aside, Mariah’s dismissal of the Maybach confirms Daimler’s failure to launch a Rolls-worthy competitor, an effort on which no expense was spared. It also raises the troubling question: will any brand be able to match Rolls at the pinnacle of the luxury sedan game? Maybach didn’t end up where it is because its vehicles are less competent, expensive or ostentatious than a Rolls. It even held some genuine cache amongst members of the music business for about two years. And then it just went flat.  Mariah might not be able to explain why the Phantom stands alone at the top of the global luxury heap better than I can, but we both know it’s the truth. Anyone looking at going after the Phantom’s segment (hello, Bugatti Galibier and Tata’s branding graverobbers) should think long and hard about the reasons why.

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32 Comments on “Maybach: No Substitute For A Rolls Royce...”

  • avatar

    I think the Galibier could go for some of the Roller’s intended buyers, and Bentley is also in that realm, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why a glorified, stretched ’90s era S Class won’t make the cut. The Maybach was a poorly conceived excercise.

  • avatar
    Via Nocturna

    I think the new Mulsanne from Bentley will give the Phantom a run for its money. Unless, of course, RR is going to update the slightly long-in-the-tooth Phantom sometime soon.
    As for Maybach, they’re still around? Really? I thought they had dropped off the face of the Earth years back.

  • avatar

    What was the original Kurt Vonnegut quote?

  • avatar

    I’m sure that Mariah’s concern is that the Maybach’s corners aren’t square enough.
    Seriously… the car could be mistaken for a Lincoln MKS or Continental.  The Maybach just doesn’t look sufficiently upscale.

  • avatar

    The Maybach is rolling excess. If you’ve got the 62, its only that long because its a stretch limo with reclining chairs and a partition. The 57 is closer to the length of the S550  and has just a little more refinement than the S550.  It would be smarter and cheaper to get a S550 or S600 as a personal supercar than the 57.

    I agree with anyone who thinks the Maybach is ugly. It was cool years ago but now its bland.

    I’ve ridden in the 62 before… Its a great ride and has so much stuff in it. I’d rather be in a Maybach than a Lincoln Continental/ Town Car

  • avatar

    I’m not dignifying with a response (or am I?) about what some dipshit diva did, but isn’t ANY fashionable status item always at the whims of um, fashion and can become stale overnight?

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Last Saturday @ Border crossing from the U.S. into Canada at the Peace Arch  border:  Maybach 57 with British Columbia license plate ahead of me and a on the left lane a 70’s Green Westfalia with a bunch of surfers and enough Free Tibet decals on it for all cars in Lhasa:  The 57 gets to open its trunk and is sent to the customs area, whereas the Westfalia (and me on my classy ’95 Pathfinder) are waved trough.
    I swear I could see a hint of a smile coming from the CBP officer with the dog at the examination area as the big Maybach approached.

  • avatar

    simon cowell loves these… and russian oligarchs… ’nuff said

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Daimler is one really screwed up company.

    • 0 avatar

      Right?! Letting Button take his No.1 to McLaren over chump change after super-splurging on buying the old Honda team. Take heart though, as it’s still just a rumor…

  • avatar

    KixStart: “Modern art is a conspiracy between artists and rich people to make the rest of us feel stupid.” A fantastic quote that deserves a better paraphrase than I was able to give it.

  • avatar

    I believe Rush Limbaugh drives one as well –

  • avatar

    The Maybach’s exterior styling looks like a Chinese or Russian limo. The Rolls on the other hand looks like, well, a Rolls. Everybody knows what a Rolls is, hardly anybody knows what a Maybach is. The Maybach 62 no doubt has a more luxurious interior than the Phantom but if the goal is to impress others outside the car the Rolls wins hands down. Maybach needs to completely restyle their cars and even then they won’t look like a Rolls. Rolls Royce has been the established standard for the type of vehicles they make forever. I don’t see anybody replacing them but a close runner up to me is a Bentley.

  • avatar

    No doubt an uninspired design, but I’ve read they handle heavy armor retrofits easily, and that may be a selling point for those worried about assassination.  On the other hand, anyone that can truly afford such a car probably has a handful of other high end makes at home or on call, so for them it’s just another brick in the wall, so to speak.  Likely a good ride on the way to your Lear 60 or Gulfstream, and then back home again a week later.

  • avatar

    Only a Rolls is a Rolls.  OK, that’s a tautology, but you know what I mean.
    Another important point is that the marketplace success of super-luxury cars is determined by people rich or powerful enough to have other people to do the driving. Accordingly, my opinion of RR vs. Maybach is worthless to both BMW and Daimler.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    Uh… Mariah Carey? Never let anyone say that a has-been performer who wants her car to be decorated with vinyl stickers of butterflies can’t be the barometer of good taste! Didn’t the rest of the world know that the Maybach was a garish joke, like, ten years ago? I disagree with Flashpoint. I’d rather drive an invisible Towncar and let people assume I have other things to worry about. Buy a loud and gaudy Maybach, and it’s clear that the owner has given this a lot of thought and DOES care what the masses think. And what they think is that you bought a $300k outdated S Class caricature that has curtains and the interior style of an 80s conversion van.

  • avatar

    My first impression when the Maybach was introduced was “it looks like an overgrown Hyundai”.   Though I’m not a big fan of the RR Phantom, you have to admit it makes a statement and even my grandma would know its a Roller.  When it comes to this class of car I think the Bentley Mulsanne is the most attractive motorcar.  Its not garish like the Phantom nor does it look like an overgrown bland Asian appliance.

  • avatar

    No car has a better (subjective) grill than a Rolls (oh wait, C300). No car looks like its sitting as upright as the Rolls, (oh wait C300. ).  No car is called the PHANTOM, Mercedes sounds good though. No Mercedes is a s big though, and Maybach is not a pretty name.
    Perhaps Mercedes needs to make a new Class.  A car that looks like a big C-class, which looks like a 70s/80s/90s Mercedes. They can call it the W-class or V-class or P-class or U-class.  A “real” Benz, the other classes are just benevolent acts of kindess.

  • avatar

    Quite often I think of Maybach when a Lincoln pulls up.
    So as a Cryslur 300 look so eeriely close to a bentley!

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Well, if your making cars for divas, you might as well be producing pink Cadillacs. I mean, just look at the stuff “artists” have inserted into their contracts. Brand-new toilet seats for every place Madonna might want to go to the crapper, prohibition of eye contact, etc etc. Maybe Maybach should guarantee free replacements when, Elvis-style, people feel compelled to shoot their cars when they don’t start. Sounds like a USP to me.
    There are three markets for these cars: conspicuous consumers such as Rush and Cowell; Russians, and Arabs. The first market is unimportant in terms of volume. For the other two groups, fleet sales are still pretty important; you buy one Maybach and ten AMGs, you get three S-classes for free, so to speak. At the end of the day, the Roller-BMW package is just more compelling.

  • avatar

    In my humble opinion, Daimler made one crucial mistake back in the 90s when they resurrected Maybach: Rather than start with a clean slate like Rolls-Royce and design a car like no other (which you have to admit the Phantom is, even if you don’t like it), they created what amounts to a trim level of the then S-Class.
    Fast forward ten years, and it’s now a trim level of the old, outdated S-Class. You can get updated technology, virtually the same powertrain, and almost the same level of luxury in the new S-Class for about 1/3 the price. It has also become clear that the Phantom’s style is rather more timeless than the Maybach’s – the Maybach screams 1990s, and the ghastly Hannibal Lecter grille along with the garish paint jobs certainly do not help one bit.
    Has anyone else noticed that you get virtually the same wheels on the Ford Focus SES? Smooth, Daimler.

  • avatar
    Thor Johnsen

    MB had their very own über-limos of yesteryear, last time in the 60’s – with their w100 MB 600 “Pullman”. That car was as imposing and classy/tacky as any contemporary Rolls. Now, IMO, if Daimler would stop trying to pull big money from a “cheap” remake of the previous gen S-class, and use some retro-magic to re-create THAT car, they might have a real contender to Rolls’ Phantom.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree completely, except for the “tacky” part.  Over the top, yes, but tacky?  Carried more heads of state than pop stars IIRC, and their threshold of tackiness was probably quite low.  In fact, the 600 was probably less ostentatious than, say, a James Young Phantom V.

  • avatar

    If I were obscenely rich and had somebody to drive me around I’d find an SJ Duesenberg or maybe a Pierce-Arrow dual-cowl phaeton. Go big or go home.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    If Mercedes-Benz can sell a pedestrian $150k S-class for three times the price to an oil shiek, then bully for them! That’s who the Maybach is for, not yahoos like me who get a laugh out of using a Piaggio product to annoy Jetta GLi drivers who sport beerkeg mufflers.

  • avatar

    @Thor Johnsen: I agree with every word of your comment except “tacky”.  The 600 was anything but, even with 6 doors.

    • 0 avatar
      Thor Johnsen

      I know, and I agree. It somehow came out wrong – I was actually referring to Rolls Royce; classy/tacky  cars, depending on the eyes of the beholder.
      As for the W100 MB 600 – probably the classiest limos of all time.

  • avatar

    If MB had to introduce Maybach as a new brand, that means they didn’t make the S class good enough. If MB had to introduce A/B classes, that means they failed at Chrysler acquisition.
    I mean, right now MB covers a price range from $30k to $180k. That’s a lot of coverage. If they build good enough C/E/S classes, they don’t need to build Maybacks and A/B classes. Will a B200 ever be as good as a Honda Fit? Never.

  • avatar

    The Maybach is ugly.  So is the Rolls Royce Phantom.  That leaves the Bentley as the last super-limo standing, unless you want to go for a classic.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think the Maybach is ugly, I also don’t think the Phantom is ugly. Its just that they are huge and have a lot of presence. The Phantom is larger than a Ford Expedition. Its not easy to make that look hot.
      Most of these cars depend on people rapping about them to get attention.  Without mainstream millionaires buying them, they are just limos.

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    I agree that the primary problem is not the brand name but the product. Although I have to admit I found one Maybach particularly humorous – a couple of months ago I saw a firetruck red one with massive corporate logos of the stationery company Ryman in front of the Ivy in London. It was truly hilarious. Apart from the Grey Goose vodka Phantoms (and those were a lot harder to spot, well, the only real giveaway was their french racing blue colour scheme) are the only from the other side of the divide :)

  • avatar

    I still remember how exciting the news of a Maybach revival by Mercedes was… until I saw what they actually did with it.  An utterly cynical exercise which managed to be both bland AND garish at the same time.

    I had high hopes that a company like Daimler-BENZ, goddammit — BENZ — would present us with a technological tour-de-force to reckon with, instead of the marketing tour-de-farce that it turned out to be.

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