Mercedes-Benz USA has promoted marketing chief Bernhard Glaser to the new job of vice president and managing director of Mercedes-Benz Vans USA.
Automotive News reported that Drew Slaven, 47, will take Glaser’s post as vice president of marketing. He is currently general manager for marketing services. The new positions are effective Jan. 1.
Glaser, 49, will be responsible for all van operations, including sales, marketing, service and parts for the Sprinter brand.
The new role was created as part of parent company Daimler AG’s new “Customer Dedication” initiative — the realignment of the company’s business divisions. Individual reporting structures were created for Mercedes-Benz Cars, Mercedes-Benz Vans and Daimler Trucks divisions. No other changes expected in the U.S. divisions because of the restructuring, said Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA.
“The U.S. market is one of the biggest growth-potential markets for Sprinter vans, and we are investing resources to take advantage of the growth opportunity ahead of us,” said Cannon.
Mercedes is promoting Glaser because “he is part of our executive team and he is a known quantity with the dealers,” Cannon said.
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Modern commercial vans are emerging as a competitive segment in the U.S., and automakers are launching new products, many from Europe, as versatile offerings better equipped to handle a wide range of duties for small businesses and corporate fleets alike.
The Detroit Free Press reported that Chrysler is creating a Ram Commercial division to handle development and sales of commercial vehicles in preparation to sell Fiat Ducato commercial vans in the U.S. while Ford is using the Transit name on three global commercial vans that are to be available in the U.S. by the end of 2013.
Nissan continues to push in the segment it entered in 2011. It invested $118 million to build the NV cargo van and passenger van in its Canton, Miss., plant and is introducing the smaller NV200, which will become the official New York taxi about a year from now under a 10-year contract.
And Mercedes-Benz is hinting it has a redesigned Sprinter up its sleeve. “We are not going to be sitting still,” said Claus Tritt, vice president of operations for Daimler Vans.
One analyst said Mercedes may bring the minivan-sized Vito from Europe.
“We are seeing a major fragmentation of the market with new players, entries, models and sizes,” said analyst Aaron Bragman of IHS Automotive in Northville, Mich.
“No one is entirely sure what will work. It is a big experiment,” Bragman said. “There is a shift to European-styled vans, but there is no guarantee Americans will see it and say it looks great.” The Sprinter, for example, has been on sale here for a decade and still accounts for only a small percentage of the market. The platform is also popular among Class B motorhome builders.
Chrysler has been without a commercial van since it sold the Sprinter as a Dodge when it was owned by Daimler. That pact ended in 2010, and the Sprinter was reintroduced as a Mercedes-Benz. Fred Diaz, CEO of the Ram brand, is to announce the Ram Commercial division today at the Texas State Fair.
“We are getting really, really serious about the commercial end of the business,” Diaz said last month.
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The following article chronicles a lengthy road test performed by Mark Williams of Motor Trend Magazine with a Via Class C motorhome from Winnebago Industries Inc., built on Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis. The story appears in the August issue of Truck Trend.
Over the last several years, the RV industry has been hammered. Big players like Fleetwood, Winnebago, Lance, and Coleman have taken gigantic hits, and in some cases have had to reorganize completely, cutting production and staff by half. And with the economy just beginning to pull out of a long nosedive, fuel prices continuing their creep ever upward, and lending institutions still being very careful about “leisure” loans, the future doesn’t look like it’ll get too bright any time soon. Still, there are signs that the industry can and will respond to this new playing field, the most obvious change being the size of motorhomes.
Traditional Class A motorhomes (the largest, typically shoebox-shaped motorhomes) use a commercial-grade frame, usually running a big-block gas engine that can average anywhere from 4 to 8 mpg. Naturally, motorhomes with Cummins, Power Stroke, or Duramax diesel engines get better mileage, but also run at a premium, depending on the packaging, and become quite pricey. As a result, smaller, more efficient motorhomes have become more popular over the past several years. As you might expect, the smaller van-chassis Class C motorhomes, typically based off an elongated van frame, also were on an upswing, but very few were equipped with a turbodiesel.
In 2004 Mercedes-Benz introduced its new Sprinter van chassis, originally designed to take the place of the aging full-size Dodge Ram vans (Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler were still together back then), equipped with a powerful, sophisticated 3.0-liter V-6 Mercedes turbodiesel, now rated at 188 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. And in the five years since its intro, just about every major RV maker has developed a new product for it.
We recently had a chance to take one of the more popular F50 (the 1-ton chassis) Winnebago models out on the road. We put the Via 25Q through cold-weather testing, and what we found was surprising. From behind the wheel, it’s almost unnerving how small the vehicle drives, making it feel more like a Suburban or Expedition EL.
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