DaimlerChrysler has expanded its Spanish assembly plant in Vitoria and a components operation in Barcelona because it expects a new van to sell better than the old one.
DaimlerChrysler invested 610 million to expand the Vitoria plant to 300,000 square meters and build a new paint shop and a body shop with 550 robots. The plant used to have 181,000 square meters of space.
Production will start there later this year of a new full-size van that will be introduced at the September Frankfurt auto show. The passenger-van version will be called the Mercedes-Benz Viano and will replace the slow-selling Mercedes V class. The light commercial version of the new van will continue to be called the Vito.
Mercedes-Benz also invested 30 million in late 2002 to upgrade a components plant in Barcelona. The greater efficiency of the plant will mean a work force reduction to 410 from 750 currently. About 90 of the Barcelona workers may be transferred to Vitoria.
Mercedes will offer the Viano with 88hp and 150hp diesel and 190hp and 218hp six-cylinder gasoline engines, and a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. The vehicle will be available in 4700mm and 5300mm lengths. A camper van version will be offered later.
The two models will compete with the Volkswagen Transporter and its luxury derivative, the Multivan. Other competitors are the Ford Transit van and Kombi models produced at Ford's plant in Turkey, and three light commercial vans with shared platforms built in Nissan's Barcelona plant: the Renault Trafic, Nissan Primastar and Opel Vivaro.