DaimlerChrysler has announced that its heavy-duty truck producing Freightliner division is to assemble and market the Sprinter light-duty commercial van in North America in cooperation with Mercedes-Benz. The plan marks Freightliner’s first major expansion into the light duty segment of the North American commercial vehicles market, a sector with volume of about 360,000 units annually in the U.S. and Canada.
The Freightliner Sprinter is a Class 2 – 3 product (Gross Vehicle Weight up to 6 tonnes) that will be offered initially in cargo and passenger van configurations. Made and sold in western Europe by Mercedes-Benz, it is used for a wide variety of commercial applications, including passenger transportation, construction services, utilities services and general light haulage.
The move is significant on two levels. Firstly, it marks another step in global product integration within the DaimlerChrysler group. Second, the panel van products developed for the European marketplace, such as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Ford Transit, have long been felt inappropriate to North American operating conditions and market needs. Its arrival could open up a new sub-segment of the commercial vehicle market and other manufacturers will certainly be watching closely.
“The Sprinter is a totally new van concept in North America with clear advantages in efficiency and functionality for customers,” said Freightliner President Jim Hebe during the unveiling of the product at the Mid-America Truck Show in Louisville, KY, today.
“It’s a timely response to a burgeoning need for more versatile and efficient light-duty delivery vehicles,” Hebe added, “a need precipitated in large part by the revolution being wrought in this country by E-commerce and on-line retail.”
The Sprinter van complements Freightliner’s existing line of Class 3 – 6 walk-in van chassis products. Freightliner will begin assembly in May of the Mercedes-Benz-designed Sprinter in its manufacturing plant in Gaffney, S.C.
“We are very pleased that the Sprinter which has become the top selling commercial van in the highly competitive European markets will now be available for customers in the U.S. and Canada,” said Dr. Rolf Bartke, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Unit. “And we are confident that it will quickly establish itself as the new benchmark for this segment in the North American market,” he added.
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