This first article in a series has three Daimler brands as its focus. What is to become of Denza, a JV between the German group and China’s BYD ? The same question can be asked about smart, which Daimler is restructuring as part of an alliance with Geely. And then there is Mercedes-Maybach, a sub-brand which has already been through its own reinvention. In all three cases, future models are key. 

Denza

Denza, a Chinese joint venture between Daimler and BYD, still makes only the one model and questions remain over its future. Specifically, will this venture be dissolved as the German firm moves to share its EV technology with local partners? The reason for the establishment of Denza was to prove to relevant authorities in Beijing that Daimler was serious about electric vehicles collaboration with one or more local OEMs. The EQ sub-brand has become Daimler’s main focus in the area of electrified vehicles, thus making many wonder if Denza will be wound up.

The BYD-Daimler JV was set up in March 2010 with the first and subsequently sole model launched at the Beijing motor show in April 2014. Originally called simply Denza, the car’s name changed to Denza 400 in August 2016 and then again to Denza 500 in March 2018. The 500, however, all but disappeared from the Chinese sales charts during the fourth quarter of 2018 only to re-emerge earlier in 2019. The partners then revealed a design study for a potential 500 replacement at the Shenzhen motor show in June. This was called Denza Concept X.

smart

Will an alliance with Geely Holding prove to be the making of smart? Daimler took a long hard look at many possibilities for the future of the small car specialist brand and came up with a series of actions. Trying to lift sales in the USA by making the brand EV-only didn’t work and so smart was pulled from that market and Canada too. Next came the decision to phase out combustion engines from most European countries due to the cost of complying with emission norms mandated for the 2020s. In short, prices for the smallest vehicles simply could not be maintained at anywhere near the existing levels were Daimler to pass on the costs of meeting these CO2 norms. And yet, no-one seems to be wondering aloud how making smart an EV-only brand will also see it become profitable?

Manufacturing is one of the division’s major costs; specifically the smartville plant in Hambach which is known to be running at way less than capacity. Daimler decided that enough was enough and that it’s time for Mercedes-Benz vehicles to be built at the French factory. The hope is that their higher transaction prices can make a difference. But will the EQA be popular and profitable too? This C segment EV will be the first fresh product for smartville in more than half a decade when it launches next year.

As Hambach evolves into a plant making the electric MFA 2 architecture model, so the smart fortwo will be phased out from production there by 2022. This was announced in March as Daimler and Geely told the media that a new generation of electric smart models will be built at a facility in China from the same year. The location of this plant is yet to be stated. The partners will also expand smart into the B segment, with the additional model likely to be an electric SUV.

As part of the agreement, engineering for future smart vehicles will be overseen by Geely and styling by Daimler. For the moment, it isn’t known whether the companies intend to directly replace the fortwo and forfour models, only that the brand will be shifted upmarket in an attempt to make it “a leader in premium-electrified vehicles”. These cars were launched in early 2014, with electric versions added in the final quarter of 2016. While the fortwo is made in France, the forfour is part of a manufacturing JV with Groupe Renault. It is built in Slovenia on the same production line as the Renault Twingo. The cars share a RWD, rear-engine platform called Edison.

Mercedes-Maybach

Since the rethink of what Daimler believes Maybach should be – a sub-brand rather than a marque in its own right – vehicle launches have been few but more are planned. It is believed that there will be a model based on the Mercedes-Benz G-Class in the early 2020s. This would be the successor for the G 650 Landaulet, which was the first Mercedes-Maybach vehicle. Its engine was a biturbo V12 which produced 1,000Nm and 463kW (630PS).

The new Maybach G will likely be called G 680 and have a five-door body instead of a two-door open-top one. A V12 engine should again feature.

Joining the potential G-Class variant in the early 2020s will be the Mercedes-Maybach GLS. Likely to be offered in GLS 600 and GLS 680 versions, each will be pitched as a challenger for the most expensive Range Rover derivatives as well as the Rolls-Royce Cullinan and Bentley Bentayga. As with other GLS variants, the Mercedes-Maybach will be manufactured in the USA.

The sole current Maybachs are both part of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class range. Their replacements are due to be launched after the arrival of the W223 S-Class next year. There will again be several variants, each serving as the relevant replacement for the current cars: S 400, S 560, S 650/S 680 and Pullman.

The Mercedes-Maybach S-Class was revealed at the LA and Guangzhou auto shows in November 2014. It went on sale in the US, China, Europe and elsewhere during the first/second quarters of 2015. While still an enormous car, it is shorter than the former Maybach 57 and costs less too.

Depending on the market, there had been three derivatives:

  • S 400 4MATIC (245kW/333hp 2,996cc turbo V6, 480Nm of torque, AWD, mainly for China)
  • S 500 4MATIC (335kW/455hp 4,663cc turbo V8, 700Nm), AWD and nine-speed automatic
  • S 600 (390kW/530hp 5,980cc turbo V12, 830Nm).

Brabus has built the Mercedes-Maybach Pullman at its Bottrop works since December 2015, with the first deliveries in early 2016. This car had its world premiere at the Geneva motor show in March 2015, and there is also an armoured version. The Pullman has four face-to-face seats and a glass partition which can be darkened to give the passengers privacy from the driver.

With a length of 6,499mm, the Pullman is 1,053mm longer than the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class and at 1,598mm high, it is more than 100mm taller than a Mercedes S-Class.

Daimler revealed facelifted and renamed variants at Auto Shanghai in April 2017. The S 500 became the S 560 and gained a new biturbo engine. The S 600, meanwhile, retained its V12 but changed named to S 680 though this is only for the Chinese market. In North America, the S 680 is the S 650.

Mercedes-Benz USA announced its 2018 model year changes in August 2017. A further update for the cars premiered at the Geneva motor show in March 2018. Two-tone paint became optional, there were fresh 20-inch wheels, a new grille and a rise in power to 630PS (463PS).

Daimler is phasing out V12 engines from the Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-AMG brands, and limiting their use to Mercedes-Maybach vehicles. An updated version of the existing biturbo unit will feature in the largest and most expensive versions of the next Maybach S-Class.

Reports for many other manufacturers’ future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

More detail on past, current and forthcoming models can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of QUBE.

The next brand in this series will be Mercedes-Benz cars, to be followed by another feature on the three pointed star’s SUVs, then Mercedes-AMG, and finally Mercedes-Benz EQ.