Mercedes-Benz Overhauls Nomenclature, Brings Back Maybach

November 11, 2014
Mercedes-Benz is in the midst of a dramatic expansion—in both sales, and in the breadth of its model line. That introduces some badging challenges; and so to clarify, Mercedes is overhauling its nomenclature, beginning next year.

For those still a bit confused about the changes over at another luxury brand, Infiniti, rest assured, they won’t be as dramatic on cars with three-pointed star; and for the most part, you won’t need to consult a chart to puzzle your way through a new lineup (nevertheless, Mercedes-Benz has done that).

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That said, it’s arguably the most significant change to Mercedes-Benz’s nomenclature since 1993, when the ‘C’ and ‘E’ letters became prefixes on the badges of the automaker’s compact and mid-size sedans, respectively.

Announced in advance of next week’s Los Angeles Auto Show, is that Mercedes-Benz will be moving to a “simple and transparent” nomenclature. Here’s what it means:

  • Models will be centered around five core model series (sizes): A, B, C, E, and S.
  • All SUVs will carry the ‘GL’ prefix. So the lineup of utility vehicles will now include the GLA, GLC (formerly GLK), GLE (formerly M-Class or ML), GLE Coupe, GLS (previously GL).
  • Four-door coupes—fastbacks—will get a ‘CL’ prefix. CLA, CLA Shooting Brake, CLS, and CLS Shooting Brake are given as examples.
  • Roadsters will all include the ‘SL’ prefix—so the SLK becomes the SLC.
  • New lower-case letters will describe powertrains: ‘c’ for natural gas (compressed gas); ‘d’ for diesel; ‘e’ for electric; ‘f’ for fuel cell; and ‘h’ for hybrid.
  • What’s staying the same: Numerical suffixes that have referred less directly to engine size over the years will be kept, and will continue to correspond, generally, to relative size and power. So for instance, the GLK250 Bluetec will soon be the GLC250d. And 4Matic will continue to be the badge for models with all-wheel drive.

Of note is that the SL roadster and G SUV remain exactly that, to honor their ‘iconic status.’

It won’t be an all-at-once transition, either. Those changes start next year and will be phased in gradually, as models are up for a redesign or major refresh. Beginning in 2015, it means that GL becomes GLS, ML becomes GLE, and GLK becomes GLC. The changeover from SLK to SLC is due in 2016 with a redesigned model.

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Teaser for new Mercedes-Maybach S-Class

Teaser for new Mercedes-Maybach S-Class

Maybach returns, realistically

The other piece of news appropriately timed with this badging announcement is that the Maybach name is back—this time as a subbrand of Mercedes-Benz and, perhaps, a lavish counterpoint to the newly redefined Mercedes-AMG performance subbrand. With the all-new 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600, which will make its debut by the end of the month both in LA and in Guangzhou, China, the automaker reaches upward, with an even more exclusive S-Class that includes special seats, more interior space, and more opportunities for individualization.

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The new subbrand will bow with a luxury car that, according to the automaker, “melds the perfection of the best automobile in the world, the S-Class, with the exclusivity of Maybach.”

It's quite a different strategy than the standalone prestige-luxury brand that the automaker launched in 2002, to take on the likes of Rolls-Royce, then abandoned a couple of years ago. But the automaker emphasizes that it isn’t just an equipment line, and will in the future deliver versions of Mercedes-Benz vehicles “in an even more exclusive form.”


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