Mercedes-Benz is tapping into the popularity of ultra-luxurious all-terrain vehicles, with a new Maybach SUV that can ferry passengers over desert dunes with an open top and thermal cupholders.
The Mercedes-Maybach G-Class 650, shown at the Geneva auto show, will be the world?s most expensive sport utility vehicle with a price of about $500,000. It?s Daimler AG?s latest extension of the top-of-the-line Maybach marque that it resurrected amid surging demand for higher-end models. Limited to a run of 99, the SUV will have a V12 engine and a landaulet style, with a front row that?s covered and a retractable fabric roof in the back.
?This car meets the highest demands for luxury and yet still has all the elements that make the G-Class a real off-roader,? said Gunner Guethenke, who heads Mercedes?s SUV business. Customers who buy the marque?s G-Class -- the segment is named for Gelaendewagen, the German term for all-terrain vehicles -- are looking for something ?unique,? he said.
Under pressure to foot the soaring bill of developing electric cars, autonomous-driving features and ride-sharing platforms, Daimler is more aggressively targeting ultra-wealthy customers with high-margin models on the one hand, while also adding more affordable cars that sell in large volumes. That strategy helped Mercedes unseat rival BMW AG as the world?s best-selling luxury marque last year and allowed Daimler to boost its research and development budget by almost a quarter.
After struggling for years to sustain a niche for Maybach, Mercedes revived the 1930?s-era sub-brand in 2014 and has since expanded it with more opulent and spacious adaptations of popular models, such as convertible and three-row stretch limousine versions of the Mercedes S-Class sedan.
The Maybach G650, which will test customers? appetite for a full-production SUV from that marque, will have an electric -- and dimmable -- glass partition to separate passengers from the driver, retractable footrests and folding tables stashed in the middle console. To master truly rugged terrains, the vehicle is positioned almost half a meter (1.6 feet) above the ground. It?ll be available for sale after September.
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