It seemed like a good idea at the time. Daimler AG (owner of Mercedes-Benz) had decided to revive Maybach, the luxury German sedan famous in the 1920s and '30s, as a way to compete with Rolls Royce and Bentley. How very late-90s of them! Last year fewer than 200 Maybachs were sold. The good news is the basic model Maybach 57 is now priced at an affordable $375,250.

"Finding a fix for the brand has now become a priority at Daimler, and [chief executive Dieter Zetsche] has said he wants to decide its fate by the end of the year," reports the Wall Street Journal (content restricted). "One possibility that's been under discussion for some time, people close to the company say, is a partnership with British sports-car maker Aston Martin, with which it's collaborated before."

One of the problems, notes the Journal, has to do with image: "But elsewhere [outside Germany], its pedigree is more obscure—one reason the brand has resonated more as a nouveau-riche status symbol and less for its heritage. While Rolls Royces are associated with the Queen of England, a longtime owner of them, much of Maybach's buzz has come from its popularity among hip-hop moguls, including Russell Simmons and Jay-Z."

Of course if this leads to more rappers buying Maybachs, thus boosting sales similar to what happend with Roederer Cristal champagne, I am sure Herr Zetsche wouldn't mind. In fact, he may be secretly pleased by the publicity following the latest rap video by Jay-Z and Kanye West for "Otis," which features a Maybach—albeit a Maybach getting "retooled." (A statement at the end of the video says that the Maybach will be auctioned and that proceeds will go to drought-relief in East Africa.)

Next Page