Attempting to Understand the Chinese Luxury Aesthetic

Thanks to an interested and better-financed populace, luxury purchases have been on the rise in China for the past decade. Chinese consumers currently drop around $7.6 billion per year on premium goods, accounting for almost a third of the global luxury market. This has resulted in a massive influx of high-end items and brands that want to capture the public’s attention and, more importantly, cash.

This includes automotive brands — all of which are desperate to expand into the Chinese market. But finding the correct approach is tricky. Plenty of fashionable brands attempted to incorporate authentic Chinese elements into their designs, but failed to do so in an elegant or convincing way. There’s a bit of a balancing act required. Market research shows younger consumers like clean designs and a little bit of bling, but don’t want these established brands catering too much to Chinese tastes. Older consumers, however, are willing to enjoy a little bit more ostentatiousness and adherence to tradition.

That’s one reason why you see so many new cars showing up at auto shows painted red. In China, red represents good fortune and crops up on significant items on important dates all the time. Wedding dresses are traditionally red, as are envelopes containing monetary gifts to commemorate the birth of a child or the new year.

However, we have to wonder if some brands aren’t going a little overboard. Mercedes-Maybach, which just released a hideous concept SUV intended to whet Chinese appetites, has followed up that eyebrow-raising effort with “the pinnacle of luxury living.”

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Mercedes-Benz Reveals 2019 A-Class L Sedan

Mercedes-Benz unveiled the A-Class L sedan at the at the Beijing Auto Show this week, giving us the first real look at the body style that will eventually make it to North America. Of course, despite the U.S. and Canada having a population that’s three inches taller, on average, Mercedes will probably keep the long wheelbase version in the East. But that has to do more with the Chinese appreciation for imported luxury than an indispensable need for legroom.

It’s a luxury that’s sometimes difficult to understand.

Mercedes-Maybach recently showcased a three-box SUV concept we couldn’t quite wrap our heads around, and is now launching into a new aesthetic intended to appeal to Chinese customers that we’re also having difficulty coming to terms with. However, let’s save that visual train wreck for another post, and figure out how much the Chinese A-Class L sedan has in common with the model destined for North America.

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Mercedes-Maybach Premieres Ultimate Luxury SUV With Perplexing Three-box Design

Mercedes-Maybach gently teased its new “Ultimate Luxury” concept before its official debut at the Beijing Motor Show, but one outlet’s itchy trigger finger resulted in every official image of it being sprayed all over the internet prematurely. The vehicle, dubbed the Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury, is incredibly difficult to summarize.

While it’s considered a sport utility vehicle by the manufacturer, the bodywork is so unabashedly sedan-like that it almost seems like a parody of modern crossovers. The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 was similarly ridiculous, but that concept coupe was intentionally fantastical. It was a “look what our styling department can do” kind of car, whereas the Ultimate Luxury is something else entirely.

We think it’s the automotive equivalent of when a successful businessman decides to remove his shoes and socks on an airplane — upscale, but disgusting.

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The New Luxury Bandwagon: Mercedes-Benz Launches Subscription Service

Mercedes-Benz has announced it will be testing a new vehicle subscription service for customers in the United States this summer. The practice is becoming increasingly popular with automakers, especially luxury brands. General Motors expanded it’s Book by Cadillac service late last year, Porsche has Passport, and Ford has its Canvas program. Even BMW offered a public aside during the 2018 Detroit Auto Show that expressed its intentions to test the subscription model for itself.

The recipe is simple. A customer pays a flat monthly rate and an automaker opens up access to its fleet. For Mercedes, what you can actually drive depends on how much you spend though. The brand says it’s system will be tiered, with higher-end vehicles being available at a more princely premium. If you want AMG models or access to the S-Class, you’ll have to pay more than someone who is happy bouncing between the GLA and CLA.

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Mercedes-AMG Promises to Never Ruin Black Series With SUVs

While black edition vehicles have become all the rage of late, there’s only one lineup that you really need to care about — and that’s the Mercedes-AMG Black Series. Despite the name, Black Series models have very little to do with color. They’re all about the brand’s Performance Studio in Affalterbach savagely goosing a standard AMG coupe, resulting in a vehicle operating on the outer limits of what’s theoretically possible without getting NASA involved.

However, the lesser go-fast AMG models are getting mighty common these days. Mercedes-Benz recently decided to attach the AMG badge to practically every model that isn’t a hybrid and a lot of them seem unnecessary. The V6-powered Mercedes GLE43 and C43 may be stellar driving machines, but did the brand really need to call them AMG’s when they aren’t top-trim performance models? This has created some concern that the no-compromise Black Series could become watered down as Daimler allows the nameplate to ooze onto undeserving models.

Thankfully, Germany says those fears are unfounded. AMG Black Series models will only ever be tuned-up, limited-edition coupes — even though the brand once affixed the Black Series name to a high-performance cigarette boat.

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Is the Mercedes-Maybach Pullman the Perfect Family Vehicle?

With the minivan now dethroned by sport utility vehicles and crossovers as the king of family transportation, we’ve run into a problem. Larger three-row SUVs can be expensive, while their more affordable counterparts frequently sacrifice cargo space and comfort to accommodate that last row of seats. Another issue is that adults who decided to spawn four children are forced to interact with them during long drives by occupying the same cabin.

Wouldn’t it be incredible if a manufacturer invented a vehicle that could solve most of these problems? Well, some already have. Limousines have been around for ages and it’s ludicrous that they haven’t been co-opted for family use. But, if you’re going to purchase a high-end luxury transport specifically for road trips with the brood, you had better make sure it’s so decadently comfortable and quiet in the back that they can’t help but fall asleep. That’s why the perfect family vehicle is probably the new Mercedes-Maybach Pullman S650.

Granted, the long-wheelbase version of the already lengthened variant of the S-Class isn’t intended for familial use. It’s supposed signal the wealth of overachieving business persons. But exceedingly wealthy parents who think way outside the box might find it worthy of double duty.

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Aston Martin May Return to the Inline Six With Help From Mercedes-AMG

While the United States’ obsession with massive V8 engines was picking up steam, Britain was falling in love with the inline six. In the years following World War II, Aston Martin was acquired by David Brown for a pittance and entered into the era that would define it forever. This era included the engine stylings of Tadek Marek — a man with a serious penchant for the straight six. Eventually both Aston and Marek would move on to motors with more cylinders, but the company would still hold onto the inline six until the new millennium as an entry-level option. It’s last application was on the base-model DB7.

Unless you count the DB4’s continuation, we’ve not seen any Aston Martin hosting a straight-six configuration since then. However, the company recently let slip that it’s talking about borrowing one from Daimler. Specifically, the turbocharged 3.0-liter from Mercedes-AMG.

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Geely Group Owner Enjoying His 103,619,340 Shares in Daimler

Unlike German auto titans BMW Group and Volkswagen Group, Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler didn’t have the stabilizing effect of a family or individual with a massive, long-term cache of company shares. That’s no longer the case, as Geely Group owner Li Shufu has announced his purchase of a 9.69 percent stake in the German automaker.

This makes Shufu Daimler’s largest single shareholder.

The Chinese auto tycoon, whose Zheijang Geely Holding Group manages car-producing Geely Group, already owns Volvo Cars and Lotus, and is a major shareholder in truck builder Volvo AB. Always on the hunt for opportunities, the near 10-percent stake in Germany’s largest luxury automaker should give Shufu the partnership he’s looking for.

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Chinese Automaker Geely Snapping Up a Near 10-percent Stake in Daimler: Report

Is a seemingly unstoppable Chinese automaker slowly amassing a significant ownership stake in Germany’s Daimler AG? That’s what sources tell Bloomberg.

According to the news outlet, sources claim Geely Auto Group, which owns the Volvo, Lotus, and the mysterious Lynk & Co. car brands, is steadily acquiring a $9.2 billion stake in the German giant. That would give the Chinese a near 10-percent stake in the maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

Are we witnessing the birth of a new alliance?

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Daimler's Works Council Claims Company Is Being 'Infiltrated by Nazis'

On Wednesday, Daimler’s German workers union publicly expressed concerns that neo-Nazis are trying to organize within the automaker’s ranks. While it did not specify which political groups were involved, it named several individuals from the Untertürkheim Mercedes-Benz plant in southern Germany and described the overall situation as “not acceptable.”

The works council believes Nazis are currently using Zentrum Automobil, an alternative labor union formed in 2009, as a base of operations to infiltrate the factory and placed several of its members on its board. “The Untertürkheim plant now appears in the media as a reservoir for neo-Nazis and a center of right-wing extremist activities,” explained members opposing the supposed infiltration.

That’s not great publicity for a German automaker with a rich history dating back through the Second World War. However, if the last year has taught us anything, it’s that the term “Nazi” currently gets thrown around more than a frisbee at a picnic. Are the claims valid?

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Whoops: Mercedes-Benz Diesel Probe in U.S. Uncovers Possible Defeat Device

U.S. investigators have found what could be illegal software modifications on Mercedes-Benz diesels intended to help the vehicles pass emissions testing. An engine management function called Slipguard recognized whether the car was undergoing testing procedures while another, called Bit 15, halted emissions cleaning after roughly 16 miles of driving. Together, the two pieces of software may amount to what is known within the industry as a “defeat device.”

When paired the software apparently enabled the cars to produce NOx levels up to 10 times higher than what is legally permitted. Interestingly, Mercedes-Benz issued a voluntary recall upon roughly 3 million European cars last month to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by tweaking their electronic control units.

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Mercedes-Benz to Preview New Police Vehicles in Germany, Promises They'll Be 'Electrifying'

Daimler will be present at this week’s General Police Equipment Exhibition & Conference to showcase its new law enforcement units. While Mercedes-Benz patrol vehicles are fairly common in the fatherland, Daimler may be seeking to broaden appeal within Europe and beyond. Don’t expect a sudden rush of imported squad cars for North America, however.

The only possible exception would be the Sprinter van. The NYPD currently fields a large number of E-Series vans as “Paddy wagons” but has started replacing them with the Ford Transit and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. The city also uses Smart ForTwos as parking enforcement. Likewise, the LAPD has also expressed an interest in adopting the Sprinter as a transport vehicle but chose the BMW i3 as its small unit intended primarily for virtue signaling.

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Mercedes-Maybach 'Grillin' It' With Updated Styling Cues

Returning from the dead in 2014, Mercedes’ ultra-luxury Maybach sub-brand has become the only way to make absolutely certain you’ve purchased highest-spec S-class in existence.

There was a problem, however. With the exception of a handful of subtle visual cues, there was no way to distinguish it from the standard fare. While a single glance at the interior would obliterate any doubt that this car was a cut above the norm, external indicators were dependent on the vehicle’s added length and badging.

That’s no way to arrive at a high-profile event, so Mercedes-Maybach has decided to guarantee the rest of society is aware you’re riding in something special via a new grille and optional two-tone paintwork. The updated visuals certainly separates the Maybach-branded S-Class from the rest of Daimler’s lineup, but it also might make it too reminiscent of the cars that ultimately forced the brand into an early grave.

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2018 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: Vantastically Evolved for Its Third Generation

Nobody knows why the custom van lifestyle ended. Despite the keep on truckin’ imperative, the 1970s ended and took those kaleidoscopic fun-wagons with it. Maybe the Baby Boomers grew up and decided to stop smoking weed in the back of large vehicles with words like “Vandy Apple” painted on the side so they could get a real job and start smoking weed at home.

Perhaps the trend simply passed and foreign-built economy cars were the next must-have item. All we know for sure is that it was a mistake.

Fortunately, vans have only gotten better since the ’70s ended. The objectively perfect minivan had its heyday when leisure travel vans still held a corner of the market. While not so popular anymore, the van’s unparalleled versatility has kept it a viable option for work fleets and individual private owners who want a jack-of-all-trades vehicle in the driveway.

Mercedes-Benz is hip to this, revealing its third-generation Sprinter with all the customizable variables one would expect. However, it’s also adding load of new technologies and hardware as part of the brand’s “adVANce” philosophy. That includes new internet integration, driveline configurations, and a forthcoming electric model. Does this amount to the most exciting model in Mercedes’ lineup?

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Mercedes' Super Bowl Phone Game Sacked Over Technical Difficulties

Automotive advertising and the Super Bowl are intrinsically linked. Car spots populate the commercial breaks, the most valuable player gets a free truck, and there is usually a contest or two sponsored by a major manufacturer. This year, Mercedes-Benz had a rather clever idea: to create a digital version of the hand-on game where the last participant to break physical contact with a vehicle (usually a Hyundai) gets to take it home.

Scheduled to coincide with kick-off, contestants would keep their fingers planted on their phones for the duration of the game for the chance to win a brand new Mercedes-AMG C43. The last person to allow their digit to stray from the moving photo would be awarded the car. But there was a problem — too many people tried to play the Mercedes-Benz Last Fan Standing game and it immediately crashed.

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  • Fred As a British Car Fan I liked them, but then I sat in one and changed my mind. I like the unique looks of the newer ones.
  • FreedMike Not much to look at, but these were sweet to drive.
  • EBFlex Ford finally making a good decision although they should shut down their EV operations and investment all together. Why lose that money too?
  • Mike Lol. This is the king of suvs. And its made by GM.Why is everyone trashing it?Top of its its class for a quarter century.
  • Frank Drove past there last week, plant has a huge poster of a bronco on the outside. I was thinking "Is that where they build the new broncos?" I know they use to make the Edge and that other mundane SUV there but I believe both have been canned.