DaimlerChrysler AG has more than 40 orders in France and the U.K. for expensive cars that won't reach the market until 2002 or 2003. The company in March started accepting $81,000 deposits for the Maybach, a Rolls-Royce competitor, and the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, a 198-mph sports car.

A DC spokesman in Stuttgart won't say how many deposits have been made worldwide.

The SLR McLaren will be the first Mercedes car manufactured in England, at McLaren Cars Ltd. in Surrey. Power will come from a 5.5L supercharged V-8, tuned by Mercedes AMG. It is expected to be priced at $390,000 to $425,000, with the first ones due in 2003.

The Maybach, which will be sold as a separate brand, not as a Mercedes, will cost more than $325,000, DC says. The standard wheelbase “is likely to be longer” than the S-class. The car also will be offered in a stretched version. Rear seats will recline like those in first class on airplanes. Power will come from a twin-turbo V-12 engine.

DC engineers have developed a unique air suspension for the car, which will be built in Sindelfingen, Germany. The Maybach will go on sale in fall of 2002, with right-hand-drive versions coming a year later.