Fleet News

Mercedes-Benz draws up luxury battle lines

MERCEDES-BENZ gave notice of a fierce new battle for supremacy in top-level motoring when it unveiled a shock prestige luxury car concept at Tokyo. The company made it clear a stunning revival of its upmarket Maybach brand could soon be given the go-ahead - but the exercise was rapidly eclipsed by Vickers' announcement of the sale of its biggest potential competitor - Rolls-Royce.

Likely to be priced about £150,000, the sweeping long, low and dramatic limousine with a V12 engine could be in a head-on confrontation with Rolls-Royce soon after the turn of the century. But before hearing the news from Britain, a Mercedes spokesman said the project would be unlikely to go ahead if the German manufacturer had formed a strategic partnership with Rolls-Royce to supply engines.

Daimler board passenger car chief Jurgen Hubbert said that disappointment in losing out to arch-rival BMW for the contract to supply Rolls-Royce with engines for its next-generation models had 'influenced' the creation of the concept. He admitted: 'I think it is fair comment for you to say that if we had been allied with Rolls-Royce, this would not have happened.'

This week's announcement from Crewe could well have a profound effect on the resurrection of Maybach. A decision on producing the car, which boasts sumptuous seating similar to that in an executive jet, three telephone systems and an information centre which operates via a massive, 20in LCD screen, is expected within weeks.c

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