FRANKFURT -- Mercedes-Benz looks ready enter the ultraluxury SUV segment and join rivals Bentley and Rolls-Royce in targeting wealthy buyers who are choosing high-riding crossovers instead of sedans.
Mercedes will preview a potential rival to the Bentley Bentayga and upcoming Rolls-Royce Cullinan with the Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury concept at the Beijing auto show on Monday.
Mercedes said the concept shows how the typical strengths of an exclusive high-end sedan can be combined with an SUV can be combined. In a statement, the brand also said the concept vehicle was inspired by Chinese influences.
The focus on China reflects its importance as a market for the world's most exclusive cars. According to the "Hurun Global Rich List 2018" report, China added four dollar-billionaires each week last year and led the world with a total of 819 whose combined net worth amounted to $2.5 trillion or 3.2 percent of global GDP.
The Beijing concept is expected to be based on the Mercedes GLS SUV and be sold as the Mercedes-Maybach GLS class.
Like the Maybach S-class sedan, it will likely get a distinct grille and front fascia. Inside, it will have a reworked rear passenger compartment that will give the rear-seat passengers more legroom, as well as power-reclining seats. The rear passenger compartment will be the main selling point to offer first-class comfort geared toward those who employ a chauffeur.
Mercedes parent Daimler revived the Maybach badge for ultraluxury sedans based on its S-class flagship sedan in 2015 after earlier dropping it as a standalone brand because of slow sales. Since the reintroduction more than 25,000 models have been delivered to customers, according to Daimler. In 2017, more than one in ten S-class models sold was a Mercedes-Maybach. The main markets are China, Russia and the U.S.
If the “Ultimate Luxury” concept goes into production, it would be the second SUV from Daimler’s ultra-premium car line, which launched a small series of G 650 Landaulet SUVs limited to 99 units last year.
Mercedes-Maybach just gave its version of the S class sedan a mid-cycle facelift, with the refreshed version hitting showrooms this month. Currently the line includes the base S-class Maybach, which starts at 144,638 euros in Germany, the 6.5-meter stretched “Pullman” and a convertible.
AutoWeek contributed to this report