Gorden Wagener, chief design officer at Daimler AG, gestures while speaking beside a Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury concept vehicle manufactured by Mercedes-Benz, a unit of Daimler AG, during a premiere event in Beijing, China (Photographer: Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg)  

Mercedes Tests Billionaires' Appetite for Maybach With Crossover

(Bloomberg) -- Mercedes-Benz is considering extending its ultra-luxury Maybach badge with a crossover, complete with a porcelain tea service embedded in a heatable ebony-wood tray, to take on high-end competitors such as Bentley’s sought-after Bentayga SUV.

Aimed squarely at billionaires perusing the Beijing auto show’s offerings this week, a concept model being displayed includes optional white nappa-leather lie-flat seats with massage and aroma-therapy functions. Mercedes isn’t commenting on when it’ll decide on offering the vehicle.

The car would help Mercedes catch up to Volkswagen AG’s U.K. car brand Bentley, whose $229,000 Bentayga is part of a money-spinning trend for high-seated models that’s prompted even Ferrari and Rolls-Royce to add sport-utility vehicles to their line-ups.

It’s “a totally new archetype, of a kind never seen before,” Gorden Wagener, chief design officer at Mercedes parent Daimler AG, said in a statement Tuesday in advance of the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.

The crossover would add to Mercedes’s growing line of lucrative top-end vehicles, such as this year’s gas-guzzling AMG GT four-door coupe, as the world’s biggest luxury-car maker seeks revenue to finance its expensive shift to battery technology.

The concept being shown in Beijing features an electric drive with a 200-mile (320-kilometer) range. Mercedes declined to outline any plans for a battery vehicle for the Maybach sub-brand.

Chinese Demand

Putting a Maybach crossover into Chinese showrooms would tap into a ready audience for the nameplate. Buyers in the country have snapped up more than 60 percent of the 25,000 Maybach sedans that Mercedes has sold since rolling out the model in 2015. That version, currently priced at $168,600, is the company’s second effort to revive the 1930s-era name in a challenge to BMW AG’s Rolls-Royce brand. An earlier try in 2001 was dropped following almost a decade of losses.

In the past couple of years, Mercedes has unveiled attention-grabbing limited-edition Maybach derivatives, helping drive home the Stuttgart-based manufacturer’s luxury standing even as most of its customers drive an A-Class compact or C-Class sedan.

Just over a year ago, the carmaker presented the Mercedes-Maybach G50, with a limited run of just 99 vehicles. The world’s most expensive SUV at around $500,000, the full-size G50 is able to cross desert dunes powered by a V12 engine, and features a retractable, landaulet-style fabric roof in the back. Customers have also clamored for a 300,000-euro ($366,000) convertible with quilted seats and matching luggage. Mercedes only made 300 of the cars.

While Maybach represents a fraction of Mercedes’s total deliveries, which last year amounted to 2.4 million vehicles, boosting sales of high-earning models is a necessary counterbalance to ballooning spending that’s weighing on earnings. Daimler is investing 10 billion euros to create 10 electric vehicles by 2022. The new cars may generate only about half the profits earned by equivalent combustion-engine autos, the company said last year.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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