Dodge on Sunday introduced the Mercedes-Benz-designed Sprinter van to US buyers at the 2003 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“The Sprinter is both a logical and natural next step in realizing an ambitious multi-part commercial vehicle strategy within Dodge to add incremental sales across all of our brands in the next few years,” said Dodge marketing chief Darryl Jackson.

Added Dodge Commercial Vans Director Patrick Dougherty, heading up the new division charged with setting up the US dealer network and developing all sales, marketing and after-market support for the Sprinter: “In continuing the tremendous work already begun by our predecessor company, DaimlerChrysler Vans, we look forward to successfully meeting our launch goals, while maintaining a steady and focused strategy in development, outreach to new audiences, and expanding brand awareness.”

Dodge claims that current vans on the market were originally designed for private use and adapted for commercial use but the Sprinter, introduced to the United States in 2001, was designed specifically for commercial use.

The vans are manufactured in DaimlerChrysler’s Sprinter plant in Dusseldorf, Germany.  The cargo vans are delivered in a semi-assembled state to a DaimlerChrysler plant in Gaffney, South Carolina while the passenger vans are shipped fully assembled.

The US-market Sprinter is available in three different wheelbases — short (118 inches), intermediate (140 inches), and long (158) — some of which can be delivered with two different roof heights. The range offers between 247 and 473 square feet of storage space depending on the wheelbase and roof height.

The US Sprinter is powered by a Mercedes-Benz 2.7 litre diesel engine developing 154 hp and 243 pound-feet of torque and featuring common rail direct injection. A five-speed automatic gearbox is standard.

Dodge claims unprecedented commercial van maintenance intervals – an oil change every 10,000 miles, and maintenance service every 20,000 miles.

Depending on model and options, the suggested retail price starts at $US26,765 for the cargo van and $28,260 for the passenger version.