Daimler would revive Maybach, a brand once coveted by oligarchs, rap stars and royals, to woo a growing class of ultra-wealthy clients in Asia and the US, a person familiar with the company’s plans said yesterday.

The brand would be used to adorn an exclusive version of its S-Class limousine fitted with soft-touch leather and bespoke materials to help lure clients from other high-end brands such as Rolls-Royce and Bentley.

The Maybach would be showcased at car shows in Los Angeles and Guangzhou in November and would cost more than double the e165 000 (R2.4 million) asking price of Daimler’s current flagship, the Mercedes-Benz S600, the person said.

Not to be outdone, BMW is expected to unveil a concept version of its top-of-the-line 7-Series limousine at the Auto China show in Beijing next week as it seeks to attract Chinese clients who are snapping up German premium cars.

The Maybach’s wheelbase would be 20cm longer than the extended version of the S-Class, allowing for extra leg space and making it the longest limousine in the Mercedes range until the expected launch of an even longer Pullman version, the source said.

Daimler stopped making bespoke Maybach limousines in 2012 after efforts to sell cars based on a unique design and costing about $380 000 (R4m) each failed to gain traction.

Only 200 Maybachs were sold in 2011 but the cars were coveted by celebrities, including Roman Abramovich, Jay-Z and King Juan Carlos of Spain.

Since mid-2012, the number of millionaires worldwide had grown by nearly 2 million, the vast majority of them in the US and Asia, Credit Suisse said in its latest World Wealth Report.

There were 98 700 individuals with assets of more than $50m each, the study showed.

The person familiar with Daimler’s plans said the Pullman “state limousine” designed to ferry around politicians was also under development and was set to cost up to $1m in its armour-plated version.

The car is expected to have a wheelbase that is a metre longer than that found in the current S-Class, to allow for an extra row of rear-facing seats in the passenger compartment.

The original Mercedes-Benz Pullman 600, launched at the Frankfurt vehicle show in 1963, was more than 6m in length and had a top speed of 200km/h.

It gained notoriety as a “dictator ship” because it proved so popular with despots. Owners of the Pullman, which had a complex hydraulic suspension that allowed it to hustle its 3.4 ton weight along at high speeds on bad-quality roads, included Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, Shah Reza Pahlavi of Iran, the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu and Yugoslavia’s Josip Tito. – Reuters