DaimlerChrysler's Freightliner is selling its fire apparatus and emergency vehicles business unit, American LaFrance, to the New York-based investment firm, Patriarch Partners.

DC's commercial vehicles head Andreas Renschler said in a statement: "Under the 'Global Excellence' initiative we are reviewing the portfolio of our commercial vehicle businesses and products. The sale of American LaFrance is a result of this process."

American LaFrance is the fifth largest fire and emergency services vehicle producer in the US and has been going for 173 years. It makes fire and emergency apparatus including chassis, aerials, ambulances, pumpers, rescues and tankers.

In addition to the purchase of all operating assets, Patriarch will maintain American LaFrance's manufacturing facilities and corporate-owned dealer locations across the US.

However, the Ladson (South Carolina) corporate office building and assembly facility is not part of the sale, though it will be used in part by American LaFrance until 2007.

DaimlerChrysler recently announced it would be dedicating that 460,000 sq. ft. facility to assembly of the next generation Dodge Sprinter van (from German kits) in response to growing demand in North America.

Initially, 220 employees will help build the first vehicle at the end of 2006.