While Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz are credited with inventing the automobile in 1886, it should be noted, they did not do it alone—they had help. One individual instrumental to their efforts was Wilhelm Maybach, main assistant to Gottlieb Daimler.
Maybach made no secret of his interest in developing automobiles. His first car surfaced in 1919 and went into production in 1921. From the beginning, Maybach concentrated on the luxury market—as did most German manufacturers of his time. It wasn’t until after World War II German car builders produced anything for the mainstream market—specifically the Volkswagen Type I, which was also known as the VW Beetle. The original generation of Maybach automobiles was produced from 1921 to 1940—when World War II intervened.
Wilhelm Maybach died in 1929.
During the war, Maybach-Motorenbau switched over to producing tank engines, which marked the end of automobile production at Maybach under Wilhelm—permanently. After the war, Maybach did repairs and servicing of cars, but the company’s main post-war revenue stream was engine design and building. Daimler-Benz bought the company in 1960. Around 1965 it was renamed MTU Friedrichshafen. Daimler-Benz used the company primarily to produce hand-built versions of its most prestigious models.
Then, in 1997, a new luxury car concept appeared at the Tokyo Motor Show. In 2003, the production models of it appeared in the form of the Maybach 57 and 62.Extremely powerful, palatial in their opulence, and positioned to rival Rolls Royce and Bentley in every way imaginable, the cars were met with lukewarm acceptance.
Critics said the cars looked too much like the S-Class Mercedes-Benz to be considered special. Further, since most people outside of Germany were unaware of the history of Maybach, educating customers about the cars was a considerable struggle. What’s more, since Maybach automobiles were built alongside the Mercedes S-Class, on a Mercedes S-Class platform, their exclusivity was questioned. Many potential customers were reluctant to pay $350,000 for what was perceived to be the ultimate luxed-out Mercedes.
Original sales projections called for some 2000 cars annually. To date, only 3,000 have been sold since the car became available in 2002. Currently, the Maybach name is slated to be lain to rest once again—at the end of the 2013 model year. Despite the lack of success, used Maybach cars, if you can find a Maybach for sale, are extremely expensive.