You’ve probably heard the saying about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Well, according to most analysts, it’s true.
One estimate suggests that today there are 211,275 people on the planet who can be categorised as ultra-rich, with a net worth of $20-$100 million (to be rich you need $4-$20 million). Combined, they have an estimated worth of £30 trillion.
But it’s estimated that by 2019 there will be 250,000 people in the same ultra-rich class, worth a combined $40 trillion. That’s a lot of people with a lot of money.
What does this mean for the car industry? That the pickings at the top end are going to get bigger - and that is one explanation for why Mercedes has revitalised its top-end Maybach nameplate for what will become a series of vehicles aimed at the super-wealthy.
Some may question how a well appointed S-class can be bracketed with a Bentley Flying Spur or Rolls-Royce Ghost, and to an extent they have a point. The last thing Mercedes wants is to become the Volkswagen Phaeton of the upper-luxury market, and even its makers admit that the Mercedes-Maybach S-class is aimed at buyers who want to go about their business with a degree of subtlety, rather than shout "look at me – I’ve made it".
But these buyers do exist. The biggest target market for Mercedes is China, where buyers seek out Western brands, value luxury and demand ultimate comfort and rear space. When you have a car as good and well regarded as the S-class, the opportunity to push it up the price ladder is too good to resist.
Estimates suggest that 60 per cent of Mercedes-Maybachs will be sold in China and 70 per cent in Asia as a whole. Next up is Russia at 16 per cent and then the USA at 10 per cent. The Middle East ranks at five per cent, while the whole of Europe iwill account for just two per cent of sales.
By re-establishing the Maybach brand on its flagship model, Mercedes has given it instant credibility. Likewise, by pricing it modestly and equipping it with an eye to the cutting-edge, they’ve established several unique selling points. Exclusivity counts at this level. And don’t forget that there’s an even larger Mercedes-Maybach S-class Pullman on the way later this year.
If it’s a success, the return of the Maybach name opens up the possibility of expanding the brand. A Mercedes-Maybach GLS SUV is already considered a near-certainty. More Maybach spin-offs will surely follow.
By establishing these models now, Mercedes is also getting the jump on some of its rivals who will - rest assured - be just as eager to tap into the increasingly lucrative market.