FRANKFURT Daimler (DAIGn.DE) will axe its Maybach superluxury brand after years of losses and moribund sales, replacing the car with more expensive models of its Mercedes-Benz S-Class flagship saloon starting in 2013.
"We held extensive discussions internally about which way would promise the greatest success in the luxury segment, and we came to the conclusion that the sales chances for the Mercedes brand were better than that of Maybach," Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
"It would not be sensible to develop a successor model for the current Maybach," he added, according to an excerpt of the interview, which will be published in the German daily in full on Saturday.
Instead, he plans to extend the number of S-Class derivatives from a current three to six in order to boost the model's volume, possibly even doubling it to 80,000 cars a year.
A spokesman for the company declined to comment on which new S-Class derivatives would be added on top of the existing saloon, long-wheelbase saloon and the coupe, sold under the CL-Class nameplate.
"Maybach sold cars upwards of 300,000 euros (257,130 pounds), but what we want to do now is move into the 100,000-300,000 euros segment -- where the annual volumes are in the thousands and not the hundreds," the spokesman said.
BRITISH MARQUES TOO STRONG
Originally aiming for volumes of 1,000 cars a year when launched in late 2002, Daimler has seen Maybach's annual sales slump to around 200 cars, where they held steady last year.
Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) and BMW (BMWG.DE), by comparison, took far more successful excursions into the superluxury segment thanks to scooping up British marques Bentley and Rolls-Royce, respectively.
Auto industry experts have long argued Maybach, a brand that before its revival in 2002 had not been in production since 1940, enjoyed no strong standing among the discriminating wealthy.
BMW's Rolls-Royce, by contrast, has seen volumes soar 41 percent to 2,441 cars in the first nine months of this year, driven particularly by its lower price, higher volume Ghost model.
VW's Bentley, best known for grand tourers like the Continental GT rather than large saloons, managed to increase its sales by 31 percent to 4,763 cars.
The Maybach became such an image liability that Daimler stopped publishing monthly volume statistics several years ago, preferring only to present the figure in its annual accounts.
A spokeswoman for BMW's Rolls-Royce declined to comment on the Maybach decision.
(Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner; Editing by Will Waterman and Jane Merriman)