Wilhelm Maybach – The Man and the Car
Automotive industry pioneer Wilhelm Maybach, who founded the luxury car brand bearing his name, was born on 9 February 1846, in Heilbronn, Germany.
In 1885, Maybach and his mentor, the German engineer Gottlieb Daimler (1834-1900), developed a new high-speed, four-stroke internal combustion engine. (Nikolaus Otto is credited with inventing the first functioning four-stroke engine.) Maybach and Daimler fixed their engine to a bicycle to create what is referred to as the first-ever motorcycle. The two men later attached their engine to a carriage, producing a motorized vehicle. In 1890, Daimler and several partners established Daimler Motoren Gelleschaft (Daimler Motor Company) to build engines and automobiles. Maybach, who served as the company’s chief designer, developed the first Mercedes automobile in 1900. The Mercedes was commissioned by auto dealer and racer Emil Jellinek, who wanted a new car to sell to his rich clients in the French Riviera. The car was named after Jellinek’s daughter.
The first Mercedes
Gottlieb Daimler died in March 1900 and Maybach left the Daimler company in 1907. He later went into business with his engineer son Karl (1879-1960) and in 1921 they introduced their first car, the Maybach Type W3, at a Berlin auto show. During the 1920s and 1930s, Maybach became known for developing powerful, technologically sophisticated custom-built vehicles for the wealthy, including the super-luxurious, top-of-the-line Zeppelin model. Wilhelm Maybach died on December 29, 1929, at the age of 83.
1921 Maybach W3
1930s Maybach Zeppelins at Pebble Beach, California on the Monterey Peninsula
During World War II, the company Maybach founded stopped making cars and built engines for German military vehicles. Auto production never resumed after the war, although the company continued to make engines for a variety of industrial vehicles and eventually became part of Daimler-Benz.
In the early 2000s, Daimler-Benz resurrected the Maybach nameplate, launching the Maybach 57 and the Maybach 62. (The numbers represent each vehicle’s length: 5.7 meters and 6.2 meters.)
The timing was off as the new Maybach was introduced at the height of the world-wide 2008-2009 economic recession. Daimler-Benz never achieved the sales volume they hoped for with the revised Maybach. When the line was re-launched, it was done as a stand-alone marque and the dealerships were separate from Mercedes dealerships. Aside from the recession, a factor hurting the sales of the new Maybach was that it was clearly evolved from the Mercedes S-Class. Wealthy buyers felt the new Maybach wasn’t different enough from the Mercedes.
In the face of disappointing sales, Daimler-Benz regrouped its Maybach organization. Rather than kill the marque off altogether, they made the sensible step of making the Maybach the top end of the S-Class line.
Each car is hand-built to its buyer’s specifications and carries a starting price tag in the high six-figure range. Maybachs are known for their power and long list of luxury extras, including voice-activated controls, entertainment centers, lambswool carpeting and perfume-atomizing systems.
Recently, Daimler-Benz has been showing this Maybach Super Coupe concept: