DaimlerChrysler expects to break even on its Maybach luxury limousine project within five to six years, the Detroit News said, citing Mercedes-Benz and Maybach head Juergen Hubbert.

European industry commentators writing in European publications have said they expect the project would not make money for at least a decade.

The Detroit News said that DC plans to sell about 1,000 Maybach luxury limousines a year and the first customers will take delivery in October. Only about 150 cars would be sold this year, the newspaper added.

The Detroit News said DC predicts that the United States will be the largest market for the car, which retails for 310,000 euros (about $US303,000).

Hubbert told the newspaper that he did not think the economic slowdown and the scandals surrounding the financial industry would diminish the demand for luxury goods.

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“We’ll earn money before the first half of the cycle, in maybe five to six years,” Hubbert told the Detroit News.

“[Maybach] customers have their private yacht, their private plane; for those customers [luxury goods are] normal,” Hubbert added.

The Detroit News said that DC foresees a total potential market of 8,000 customers a year for Maybachs and its rivals which will soon include the new models from VW-owned Bentley and BMW-owned Rolls-Royce’s UK factories due to be introduced next year.

“We made our strategic decision earlier, that’s why we’re earlier on the market,” Hubbert told the Detroit News.

Hubbert refused to tell the newspaper how much the company had invested in the project to build the Maybackh line in Sindelfingen, where it also builds the Mercedes-Benz S-class.

The Detroit News said that Mercedes has started taking Maybach orders in Europe for delivery later this year and will start taking US orders next month for delivery in the second quarter of 2003.