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If you know cars, you know Mercedes-Benz, the luxury German automaker, many of whose vehicles run the price of a starter home. But even with top-of-the-line models running well into the six figures, somehow, Mercedes-Benz has a sub-brand that produces even more premium and exclusive vehicles. This sub-brand is prominent enough you may not have realized it’s affiliated with Mercedes-Benz. But where did Maybach come from, and why would a luxury brand decide to launch a separate luxury brand?

Maybach badging attached to a Mercedes-Benz model during vehicle assembly in Sinfelfingen, Germany
Maybach badging on a Mercedes-Benz model | Bernd Weissbrod/picture alliance via Getty Images

Where did the Maybach brand come from?

According to Inside Hook, the modern history of Maybach originates in the British auto failures of the ’90s, at the end of which Bentley was acquired by Volkswagen, and Rolls-Royce was bought by BMW. To compete, Mercedes-Benz began looking for its own premium luxury offering. And their efforts yielded the Maybach brand, which stems from an earlier Daimler collaborator, Wilhelm Maybach.

Wihelm Maybach developed the first Mercedes in 1900, though the company’s focus was not yet on luxury. And by 1909, Wilhelm and his son Karl founded what would become the Maybach brand, though it was initially attached to aircraft engines. The iconic double M logo that is Maybach’s signature originated at this time as well.

Years later, Wilhelm and Karl attached the name to a series of car models designed for the aristocracy. The first of these models debuted at the 1922 Berlin Motor Show. These car models were designed for the aristocracy. But by World War II, the brand was no longer in use.

The second generation of Maybach

Daimler bought the brand in 1961 but did nothing with it. It sat in the archives until modern Mercedes-Benz marketers found and resurrected the name. They then used it for a concept car they debuted at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show.

This vehicle, and subsequent vehicles under the Maybach name, were aimed at multi-millionaires and billionaires. The company also refreshed the logo, making it wider and three-dimensional.

The first Maybachs launched in 2002 and sold for between a quarter and a half million apiece. But while they, and subsequent models, were incredibly sophisticated, refined, and well-crafted, their value wasn’t immediately evident.

They attracted substantial interest from wealthy hip-hop stars like Jay-Z and Rick Ross (the latter named his record label and multiple songs after the brand). But by 2011, the vehicles sold were only in the double digits. At that time, the company was absorbing losses of $400,000 per car sold.

The company refreshed the brand somewhat in 2014 with the new Mercedes-Maybach, a series of stretched Pullman limousine models with lower pricing. Of course, you can still spend half a million on one of these vehicles, but you can also get several models for under a quarter million dollars.

Maybachs in the 21st century

Today’s Mercedes-Maybachs further the sub-brand’s history of luxury, sophistication, and exclusivity. The S-Class models now come exclusively with a V-12 engine and very different styling than the GL-Class models.

They also remain the highest priced of Maybach’s offerings and include limited editions such as the 2023 Haute Voiture—an S680 with a two-tone metallic blue and rose gold paint job, specialized interior accents, and premium pricing.

A typical S680 sedan would start around $230,000 and come with a handcrafted 612-hp 6.0-liter V12 bi-turbo engine. Mercedes-Maybach also offers an S580 mild hybrid that starts for around $185,000 and comes with a 496-hp 4.0-liter V8 bi-turbo engine. Of course, both models are customizable with all sorts of innovative and refined amenities that can push the final purchase price up tens of thousands of dollars.

The Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 offers an ultra-luxury SUV experience for those who can afford it. At a starting MSRP of $165,100, you can own a 550-hp SUV with the same powertrain as the S580, along with most of the same amenities. And for anything extra you want that doesn’t come standard with the GLS 600, Mercedes-Benz certainly has it to offer as an option.