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Jewish World Review
Dec. 1, 2011
/ 5 Kislev, 5772
Last chance to snap up a Maybach
Depressions and recessions are the enemies of luxury-car marques.
The U.S. auto industry lost, among other fine machines, the Peerless with the crash of the stock market, and, as the Great Depression progressed, the Marmon, the Auburn, the Cord, the Duesenberg and the Pierce Arrow.
The problem, of course, was that few people had any money, let alone enough to buy one of these handmade automotive masterpieces. The basic Duesenberg went for $13,000 to $19,000, at a time when the average annual income was $1,788.
And it was not a particularly propitious time for ostentatious displays of wealth when the captains of finance and industry -- at least those who had avoided bankruptcy -- were being described as jackals and hyenas, and there was Bolshevik talk of selling capitalists the rope to hang them with.
Now, the recession has claimed another luxury car with a venerable name.
From 1909 until production ended with the war in 1940, Maybach was a famous German luxury car. In 1998, Daimler revived the nameplate with a super-luxurious sedan that had a base price of $375,250. But faced with flagging sales, fewer than 200 worldwide last year, Daimler announced that it was stopping production in 2013.
Instead, for its high-end cars, Daimler will concentrate on its S-class Mercedes, which goes for the relatively bargain starting price of $91,850. The Wall Street Journal says that Mercedes will expand the S-class range of cars to compete with what it calls the "lower end" models of Rolls-Royce and Bentley that go for between $180,000 and $300,000.
While the U.S. government tries to bribe Americans into buying "green" cars, the Germans are going unashamedly retro, luxury wise. BMW owns Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen owns Bentley.
Moreover, Volkswagen, pioneer of the cheap, fuel-efficient car, has revived another marque of the 1930s, Bugatti, with the ridiculously fast and ridiculously pricy Veyron -- it can go more than 260 mph and costs about $1.7 million. In five years, the company has sold about 300.
At this point, it might be worth noting that the median household income in the U.S. is just over $50,000 a year. If 1930s prices still held, a frugal household could buy a bottom-of-the-line Duesenberg -- but would have to finance.
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