Mercedes-Maybach SUV to be built in Alabama

Mercedes-Maybach SUV to be built in Alabama
The 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 is the latest addition to the production lineup at the automaker's factory in Tuscaloosa. (Euro Spec)

Mercedes-Benz is introducing a vehicle that combines the luxury features of its flagship S-Class sedan with the GLS full-size SUV as part of a push to increase profits through sales of upscale cars.

The Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 will hit showrooms in the second half of next year, the Daimler AG brand said Thursday at the Guangzhou auto show in China. The vehicle will be built at Daimler’s U.S. factory in Tuscaloosa and powered by a V-8 engine including a 48-volt hybrid system to deliver a total 558 horsepower.

Optional features include extending folding tables and a refrigerator with space for champagne bottles.

“The worldwide success of SUVs has changed the standards and habits of car buyers,” said Martin Huelder, director of product management at Mercedes-Maybach. The brand’s customers usually own several vehicles, “and if they drive an SUV, we want them to drive a Mercedes-Maybach.”

Global luxury-car brands from Rolls-Royce to Lamborghini to Maserati have been churning out SUVs to expand beyond their traditional cars. Aston Martin became the latest entrant in the popular segment this week with the $189,000 DBX that’s critical for the British brand’s strategy. Mercedes-Benz hasn’t published a price for the Maybach SUV.

The world’s largest luxury carmaker in 2014 culled stand-alone Maybach cars from its lineup because of weak demand for the hulking sedans, and instead started putting the nameplate on versions of the high-margin S-Class sedan. The move resonated with customers, especially in the Chinese market, the brand’s largest sales region. More than 45,000 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class have been sold since 2015, and demand surged to a record last year. About one in seven S-Class models delivered in 2018 was a Maybach.

Despite robust demand for Mercedes-Benz cars, Daimler’s new chief executive officer, Ola Kallenius, gave a muted outlook last week for the storied German manufacturer’s future profitability.

Mercedes’s margin outlook “is disappointing and led to consensus downgrades, while a recovery in 2022 appears overly reliant on volume and pricing, which have failed to materialize under previous plans,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Michael Dean. “While a new S-Class will likely underpin margins from 2021, the assumption of a recovery in global markets and significant electric-vehicle conquest sales is optimistic at this stage.”

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