Mercedes-Benz will launch its top-of-the-line S600 Pullman next year, in an effort to build the world’s most luxurious sedan.
Technically, the Pullman will be a 21 foot-long limousine. The armored version (previously known as Guard) will cost $1 million (£583,000; €730,000), making it the most expensive sedan in series production.
Bloomberg published a report detailing the Pullman, and Daimler’s journey to rival the world’s best. It is quite easy to marginalize the model as a dictator special, but there are two interesting things to consider.
Though the Pullman will have three rows (the second faces rearward) and seat six, it is only 16 inches longer than a Rolls-Royce Phantom Extended Wheelbase. In the context of vehicles this large, that is not a big difference.
Furthermore, a possible non-armored version of the Pullman would have a more competitive price. The market launch of a base model is unclear, but Bloomberg specifies that the $1 million figure corresponds to armor plating. Nonetheless, seven figures is a lot of money for any S-Class. It is unclear how much (exterior or interior) design differentiation there will be between the S600 and the S600 Pullman.
To split the difference between the long-wheelbase and limousine S-Classes, Mercedes is launching an extra-long-wheelbase Maybach. Unlike the previous effort to establish the brand as its own marquis, however, Maybach will be a trim level for an S-Class rumored to cost between $300,000 and $400,000. It will be launched in November 2014, at the Los Angeles and Guangzhou Motor Shows.
In the meantime, Daimler will keep racking up sales of the S-Class models already available. According to IHS Automotive, S-Class deliveries will rise 63 percent in 2014, to a total of 98,600 vehicles. Meanwhile, the Audi A8 and BMW 7-series will sell a combined 88,100 units. Furthermore, analysts estimate the profit margin of the S-Class to be between 12 and 15 percent.
The sales figures are incredible for a vehicle as expensive as the S-Class. It is all the more impressive when considering that the cabriolet and ultra-luxury versions of the family will not be on sale until 2015. This demonstrates the clout the brand still has among wealthy clients, even as 30 percent of their global sales are FWD compacts.
Mercedes-Benz hopes the neo-Pullman will recall its stature in the 1960s, when it held the mantle of a German super-luxury brand, and did battle with Britain’s Bentley and Rolls-Royce. The difference is, the 600 was more of a technical achievement, featuring a cutting-edge hydraulic system that automated all of its systems. The same is true today. Those that the UK makes, offer classic styling, boutique craftsmanship, and decades of exclusivity. The Pullman will aim to be the most sophisticated car in the world. The question is not so much ‘which will win?’ as it is ‘what criteria determines success?’
There is an added complexity in the Anglo-German rivalry, however. Mercedes turned its back on the ultra-luxury Brits to compete for sales against homeland nemeses BMW and Audi. Now, of course, BMW owns Rolls-Royce, and Volkswagen owns Audi and Bentley. Benz is outflanked in all segments. The new rivals have absorbed the old ones. How well can Daimler defend its standing and launch a counteroffensive?
The next year is pivotal in the Mercedes-Benz restoration. The brand seeks to reclaim its stature at the top of the luxury market. Mercedes wants to show that it can do what Audi and BMW simply cannot. It wants to prove that its brand is the most flexible in the world.
Audi A3? Porsche 911? Bentley Continental GT? Rolls-Royce Phantom? Mercedes-Benz will have an answer for all of these models. Daimler will argue it can offer the world’s greatest luxury at any price point imaginable. Regardless of whether you think it is the greatest luxury brand in the world, over the next year, Mercedes-Benz will certainly become the most impressive.
By Nico Grant
Note: Spy Photos and Video below correspond with the S-Class Maybach, not the S-Class Pullman.