The newly created Mercedes-Benz Vans USA unit that sells the Sprinter van will add dealers and models and will increase sales in the next few years, says the business unit's leader.
Bernie Glaser, Mercedes-Benz USA vice president and managing director of the van unit, says that the Sprinter is the ideal vehicle to capitalize on the growing popularity of European-style vans in the United States. These vehicles are taller and lighter and get better fuel economy than the vans they're replacing.
"The Sprinter is the benchmark and the norm of the Euro-style vans," says Glaser. "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."
Several automakers, including Ford, Nissan and Chrysler, have or are preparing new van entries.
The Sprinter generates revenues of nearly $1 billion in the United States, said Glaser.
Mercedes plans to accelerate growth with:
• A new four-cylinder turbodiesel engine from the E-class sedan teamed with a seven-speed automatic transmission.
• Standard electronic stability control, plus options from cars such as collision prevention, blind-spot assistance and a crosswind stabilization feature.
• An all-wheel-drive variant of the Sprinter commercial van that debuts this week at a truck show in Indianapolis. It goes on sale in the spring of 2015.
• Thirty additional U.S. Sprinter dealerships over the next five years, adding to the current 188. In addition, 57 dealerships for Freightliner -- the Daimler AG commercial truck unit -- sell the Sprinter.
Also, a small 12-passenger van is being considered for sale in the United States. Glaser said a decision will be made soon.
Mercedes-Benz set up a worldwide van division last year as part of an internal reorganization. Each market now has a car, van and commercial vehicle unit.