FRANKFURT -- Daimler AG is in talks with Aston Martin on a potential cooperation agreement for the Maybach brand, as the automaker nears a decision on the future of the ultra-luxury marque.
"We are close to a decision," CEO Dieter Zetsche said Tuesday at the Frankfurt auto show.
Talks with Aston Martin "have taken place," he said, declining to provide details.
Maybach, a German luxury brand which had its heyday in the 1930s, has failed to mount a serious challenge to BMW AG's Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen AG's Bentley since it was reintroduced in 2002.
Sales, targeted at more than 1,000 a year, topped out at 600 cars in 2003 and fell to 200 last year. Rolls-Royce sold 2,700 autos in 2010, while Bentley delivered 5,100.
The marque's dwindling sales add to the challenges facing Daimler after VW's Audi passed Mercedes this year as the world's second-largest luxury-car brand.
Daimler and Aston Martin worked together on the England-based carmaker's 2009 Lagonda concept car.
Daimler is still considering a number of options for Maybach, Automotive News Europe reported in June.
One is a partnership with Aston Martin in which the British carmaker would produce the second-generation Maybach, Daimler sources said. Aston Martin has created four concepts for Daimler based on the next-generation S-class architecture.
Aston Martin could gain access to Daimler's four-wheel-drive technology for an off-road vehicle it is considering building based on the Mercedes-Benz GL. The British brand could also benefit from Daimler's fuel-efficient diesel and gasoline engines.
Aston Martin was sold by Ford Motor Co. to a group of private investors including Kuwait's Investment Dar Co. in 2007.