The arrival this fall of the technology-laden 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 will set off a new debate about who is at the peak of the premium luxury pecking order. Mercedes will have a strong argument. The $100,000 sedan is festooned with more gadgets and gizmos than a Christmas tree has ornaments, all in an effort to keep M-B ahead of top-shelf rivals BMW, Audi, and Lexus.
One ranking will not be in dispute, however: As it has since 1972, the S-class sedan will remain the flagship of the Mercedes car line: the grandest, lushest, and most prestigious car coming out of Stuttgart.
Flagship cars represent the pinnacle of achievement for a particular brand. They set the tone for an entire line. They are not to be confused with halo cars -- attention-getting though often impractical designs intended to draw customers into a showroom but that few people are expected to buy. The Mercedes SLR is a halo car; the S-class is the flagship.
As sales accelerate in the U.S, and particularly in China, more attention is being paid to flagships as an attraction for upscale customers. A look at recent developments:
The carmaker's engineering prowess couldn't insulate it from economic upheaval, earthquake, and flood. Now Honda is learning to prize broader business skills.