On the surface, Mercedes’ AMG division is still doing the same thing it has always done: sell the fastest and most expensive Mercedes available. But look a little deeper and you’ll see that something has changed.
Ever since Mercedes officially absorbed the once-independent AMG into Daimler’s corporate structure, the brand has been veering away from its core value of making stodgy Mercedes go much faster than they have any right to.
But that’s not the issue here. AMG still makes hideously fast cars. In fact, Mercedes is busy renaming all of its fastest cars AMGs.
The newest AMG, the “Mercedes AMG C43" was, up until a few days ago, referred to as the Mercedes Benz C450. The car got some small updates (including a new transmission), but the principal change was the name.
AMG is impossibly profitable for Mercedes. Their most emblematic vehicle is the G65, which is an old truck of an SUV that has been in production since the 1970s. What AMG does is stick the twin-turbo V12 shared with a supercar under the hood and charges $218,000 for it.
AMG is making so many of their top-of-the-line V12s that they need to set up new assembly lines to handle the boost in production. I will stress that no new V12 car produced by AMG has less than 620 horsepower or costs less than $200,000.
But that’s the problem. AMG is still making the fastest and most expensive cars that Mercedes offers, but they’re increasingly becoming normalized with the rest of Mercedes. AMG made its name on hand-built engines (“One man, one engine”) from its small and distant Affalterbach factory, but its new four-cylinder engines its V12s, and its newly AMG-branded V6s won’t be made there. At its heart, an AMG that passes you on the street isn’t necessarily that special.
What’s funny about this is how little it really matters. These problems stem from Mercedes trying to boost AMG’s already amazingly profitable and popular model, and it seems like Mercedes is finally figuring out that what makes AMG such a money maker is what made Mercedes so big in high-profit foreign markets in the first place.
Let me go back to the 1970s and ‘80s, when Mercedes was almost singularly propped up by its exports to the United States. Only a few select super car nerds in America were buying a Mercedes because of the reasons for which we idolize the brand. The fact that a classic Mercedes would last a thousand years was secondary to it being hugely expensive. The particular qualities of the car only were there to justify the price, inflated by demand and import costs and exchange rates. Hell, if you stripped the entire car away and only left the three-pointed star on the hood, people would still wear that on a gold chain to show themselves as rich.
So I’m not particularly worried about AMG at the moment. Sure they’re diluting their brand by making tons of cars and giving AMG badges to normal Mercedes cars that have nothing to do with AMG’s little factory.
But they’re still the most expensive Mercedes a person can buy, and they still have enough speed to back up the price. But I will know that they’re not exactly as special as they once were.
Maybe the buying public will figure that out eventually, too.
Photo Credit: Mercedes-AMG
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