In a segment of the auto industry where originality can be as rare as a pink paint job, Mercedes-Benz had cut out its own little corner of exclusivity: a big yet fuel-thrifty European-style commercial van line.
USA Today reported that the Sprinter van has proven to be a success since it arrived in 2003, initially under the Dodge brand when Daimler owned Chrysler and later under Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz brand. The Sprinter has also become a popular platform among Class B motorhome builders.
But now several competitors are on its doorsteps with competing tall, Euro-style vans for the U.S. and Mercedes-Benz hopes to fend them off and protect its turf with an all-new version of the Sprinter, the first redo since 2006.
When the new van arrives in the fall, it will sport a more serious-looking, work-oriented front-end styling. A four-cylinder diesel engine choice will be added for the U.S. in addition to the six, along with a raft of safety options. The van will be aimed at not only the plumbers, contractors and ice cream vendors who have been its mainstay market, but also for those who convert it for use as a small motorhome or executive van, where it has found a nice niche.
And it will still have a drawing card that none of its competitors can match: that three-pointed Mercedes-Benz badge on the front of the grille, made even a little bigger for the new one.
If anything, Mercedes executives see new Euro-style commercial van entries coming from Ford, Nissan and Chrysler’s Ram Truck division as an homage to their decision to bring Sprinter to the U.S. in the first place.
“For 10 years, we were the oddball in the van market. Now I truly believe we are the benchmark,” says Claus Tritt, general manager of Mercedes’ commercial vans in the U.S.
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