TORONTO – Without aiming to completely replace the its discontinued Maybach line, Mercedes-Benz will market S-Class variants ranging up to about $275,000 in price and designed to compete with Rolls-Royce and Bentley models, Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche says.

Speaking at a press launch here of the ’14 S-Class, Zetsche says premium models are still significant in the automotive market, even though much of volume growth for luxury brands is being generated by lower-priced models.

“Their relevance continues,” he says of the super-premium cars, adding that the S-Class defines the essence of Mercedes-Benz.

Mercedes will offer six variants of the ’14 model, including at least one version designed to appeal to former Maybach buyers. Zetsche also notes the AMG S-Class already competes with some models in the $250,000 price range.

“The S-Class experience absolutely provides (customers) with the best product in the world,” Steve Cannon, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, tells WardsAuto. “It's a best in the world product and is a legitimate alternative to the smaller-volume Bentley and Rolls-Royce products.”

Buoyed by rising sales, Cannon predicts Mercedes will break the 300,000-unit mark in volume in the U.S. in 2013, noting Mercedes set a first-half record this year with sales of 142,000 units.

“That's before significant new product launches this year,” he points out.

Along with the new S-Class at the top of the lineup, Mercedes is rolling out its new entry-level CLA model later this year. Cannon promises the brand will maintain sales momentum, with 30 new product launches in the next seven years, a rate of one every three months.

The U.S. premium-vehicle market only now is returning to 2007 sales levels, but Cannon says a booming stock market and recovering housing market is adding momentum.

“We have the dynamic back,” he says, predicting the sector will outgrow mass-market vehicle sales through 2020 by a factor of more than three.