Superlux sedans miss sales target; Maybach, Rolls models are far below predictions RICK KRANZ | Automotive News Posted Date: 10/19/04 Once touted as slam dunks, the $300,000-plus Maybach and Rolls-Royce sedans are falling far short of their 2004 sales goals. Analysts cite the vehicles' lofty sticker prices. For many shoppers, the cars are too ostentatious. And the Maybach suffers from limited brand awareness. But the shortfall also may be the result of unrealistic sales predictions made years ago. DaimlerChrysler AG owns Maybach. BMW AG acquired the rights to Rolls-Royce in 1999. DaimlerChrysler expects to sell about 600 Maybachs worldwide this year, about 50 percent of them in the United States. This year the company had projected 800 worldwide sales. In the late 1990s the company had projected about 1,500 annual sales. Rolls-Royce launched the Phantom sedan last year, expecting to sell 1,000 annually worldwide. As of Sept. 30, 485 had been sold. About half of those sales were in the United States. Predicting an upturn Andrew Ball, a spokesman for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, expects sales to pick up in November and December. The start of the 2005 model year will help, he says, as will the end of Islam's month-long Ramadan observance in the Middle East. "We hope to be very much closer to the 1,000-car mark by the end of the year," Ball says. Donna Boland, a spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz USA LLC, expects about 300 Maybachs to be sold here by the end of the year. She says most Maybachs are one-of-a kind vehicles that require up to nine months between order and delivery. While Rolls-Royce is a widely recognized brand name, the Maybach name means little in the United States, which could be hurting sales. Maybach has a rich heritage in Germany. Maybach has more dealers than Rolls-Royce: 70 vs. 29. But Boland says the automaker has no plan to reduce the number of outlets. Trolling for swells Today, 15 months after Maybach's launch, a dealer can't rely on walk-in traffic. "You prospect. You do events; you do shows; you attend parties with it. You throw it in front of a fancy restaurant or a hotel," says Brain Bucholtz, a Maybach marketer at Mercedes-Benz of Bloomfield Hills in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Others cite the steep sticker prices: The Maybach 57 is $318,000; the Maybach 62 is $369,500; and the Phantom is $324,000. Only the Phantom's price includes a gas-guzzler tax. Then there is the statement that buyers make by driving the cars, says Arndt Ellinghorst, head of automotive research at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in Frankfurt. "I think in a booming economy, such as China, people increasingly tend to drive these cars because they want to show their (new) wealth," Ellinghorst says. But, he says, in some developed economies such as Germany the cars are politically incorrect.