When Daimler AG, the maker of Mercedes-Benz luxury cars and former owner of Chrysler, brought its Euro-styled Sprinter van with a 14-foot high roof and sloped brow to the U.S., it stood out on the parkway like a pachyderm.
As reported by Bloomberg, a dozen years later, the commercial-van market has embraced the look. Traditional, big vans, such as General Motors Co.’s Chevy Express and Ford Motor Co.’s Econoline, are starting to fade from the scene as stricter fuel-efficiency standards are prodding a convergence around a more aerodynamic, European look.
“Guess what? The world has changed,” Claus Tritt, who heads Daimler’s U.S. commercial-van business, said in an interview. “We are no longer the oddball.”
Automakers, including Daimler, Ford and Chrysler Group LLC, are all bringing new, large, fuel-sipping work vans to the U.S. as they gear up for a boom in the highly profitable segment. The surge is fueled by new-home construction and an improving economy, the same forces helping make 2013 the year of the pickup, said Tritt. The platform has also been embraced by the RV market, particularly builders of Class B motorhomes.
The new vans tend to have straighter sides and taller roofs than traditional ones that looked more like bulked up minivans. With their improved fuel efficiency and utility, they complement the U.S. automakers’ best lineup from top to bottom in a generation.
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