Bloomberg News

Daimler Talking With Aston Martin on Maybach Partnership

September 13, 2011

(Updates with Aston Martin’s comment in fifth paragraph. See {SHOW <GO>} for more Frankfurt auto show news.)

Sept. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Daimler AG is talking with Aston Martin on a potential cooperation agreement for the Maybach brand, as the Mercedes-Benz maker nears a decision on the future of the ultra-luxury marque.

“We are close to a decision,” Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche said today at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt. Talks with Aston Martin “have taken place,” he said, declining to provide details.

Maybach, a German luxury brand which had its heyday in the 1930s, has failed to mount a serious challenge to Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen AG’s Bentley since it was reintroduced in 2002. Sales, targeted at more than 1,000 a year, topped out at 600 cars in 2003 and sagged to 200 last year. Rolls-Royce sold 2,700 autos in 2010, while Bentley delivered 5,100.

The marque’s dwindling sales add to the challenges facing Daimler after VW’s Audi passed Mercedes this year as the world’s second-largest luxury-car brand. Daimler is also making a second attempt to transform the Smart city car into a nameplate with multiple vehicles, in a bid to attract younger urban drivers and meet environmental standards.

“We’ve been talking to them for quite some time on various topics, but have nothing new to report,” spokesman Matthew Clarke said today by phone. Daimler and Aston Martin worked together on the Gaydon, England-based carmaker’s 2009 Lagonda concept car.

Sales Growth

Mercedes, based in Stuttgart, is starting a push for sales growth at the Frankfurt show with a new generation of its B- Class. The van-like compact, the first in a line of five small cars, is part of the brand’s plan to overtake BMW and Audi as the leader in luxury cars by 2020.

Daimler is investing 1.4 billion euros ($1.9 billion) to produce the models, including a new factory in Hungary. The automaker is sticking to its investment plans as it targets a record 1.35 million car deliveries this year, Zetsche said today.

Concerns about a slowing economy haven’t affected orders for cars or heavy trucks, which remain “very strong,” Zetsche said. “We are investing in production because we know we’re short on capacity.”

While a recession is unlikely, growth may slow next year, though Mercedes expects to gain market share, Zetsche said. He called on politicians to resolve debt problems and “restore

Aston Martin was sold by Ford Motor Co. to a group of private investors including Kuwait’s Investment Dar Co. in 2007. Its best seller is the Vantage coupe, with a price of about $113,000.

--Editor: Jerrold Colten, Chad Thomas

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Reiter in Frankfurt at creiter2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net


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