With European vans such as the Ford Transit Connect and the Fiat Ducato-based Ram ProMaster finding overwhelming success in the United States commercial van market, Mercedes is preparing its Sprinter to show the competition how it’s done on Floral Shop Lane.
Automotive News reports Mercedes-Benz Vans USA — part of the overall global van division Mercedes created last year during an internal reorganization resulting in three self-contained units for vans, cars and commercial products — will be adding new models to the Sprinter lineup alongside more dealerships to sell the lighter and taller new generation van, all in an effort to capitalize on an evolving U.S. commercial van market as MBUSA vice president and MB Vans USA managing director Bernie Glaser explains:
The Sprinter is the benchmark and the norm of the Euro-style vans. There is a revolution happening in the segment and big changes coming that were caused by the Sprinter — vans with a smaller footprint but big cargo volume.
Changes planned for the Sprinter include: a new four-pot turbodiesel from the E-Class mated to a seven-speed transmission; electronic stability control standard with options available for collision prevention, blind-spot assistance and crosswind stabilization; an all-wheel drive model due in 2015; and a small 12-passenger variant under consideration.
Meanwhile, the sales channel for the Sprinter will expand from 188 to 218 within five years; 57 Freightliner dealers will also be added. Stronger marketing tactics are in the offing, aimed to move more Sprinters into the wrap shop in 2014 than the 21,816 sold in 2013. However, the unit saw 1,288 vans sold in January as small business owners coming out of the Great Recession with more confidence in the market headed to the nearest dealer.
As for 2014, the new Sprinter uses a base 2.1-liter BlueTEC I4 driving 161 horsepower and 320 lb-ft torque through its seven-speed transmission, whose fuel economy is 20 percent better than the optional 3-liter BlueTEC V6/five-speed transmission combo. The latter pairing gets 25 mpg on the highway from the supplied 188 horses and 265 lb-ft torque. Prices range from $35,920 for a Sprinter 2500 with 144-inch wheelbase and standard roof, to $45,400 for the same model with a 170-inch wheelbase and high roof.