Mercedes-Benz bolsters commercial van lineup

HANNOVER, Germany — North America will soon be getting an improved Sprinter, and a new mid-sized commercial van, courtesy Mercedes-Benz.

Executives representing Mercedes’ van business met with trade press editors at the IAA Commercial Vehicle show to share some of their plans for the North American market. Volker Mornhinweg, executive vice-president of Mercedes-Benz vans, said the US market is an important one. The large van segment in the US has grown 16.8% through August 2014. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz has seen its US van sales climb 21% this year.

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has received many upgrades this year.

Bernhard Glaser, vice-president and managing director, commercial vans, with Mercedes-Benz USA, said Daimler established a dedicated van division in the US in January 2014, which has contributed to its growth.

It came at a good time, as the North American cargo van market is undergoing a “major transformation” towards European-styled vehicles, Glaser pointed out.

“We were the first Euro-style van coming to the US market,” Glaser said in reference to the Sprinter. “Now, a lot of our competitors are copying our formula for success and transitioning more to a Sprinter lookalike concept. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and that is kind of what’s happening right now in the large van market.”

Most notably, Ford has brought its European Transit cargo van to North America.

“They have their homework still to do, to convince existing buyers to move over to the Transit,” Glaser said, noting Ford has seen its van sales slide 6.5% since it brought in the Transit.

Meanwhile, a redesigned Sprinter has resulted in a 22% increase in sales this year through August, Glaser said.

“We’re outperforming the market…the Sprinter is on a roll,” he said.

The Sprinter now owns about 7.8% of the US large van market, up 0.3% this year. Ford still commands 43% of the US market, despite its recent slide.

Among the new features available in the Sprinter, which got a comprehensive redesign last year, are: a new standard engine that provides an 18% reduction in fuel consumption; a redesigned front end; a new head unit; a larger 5.8-inch screen in the dash as well as Bluetooth and USB connections; and safety features including blind spot assist, collision prevention assist and highbeam assist.

The 2015 model year Sprinter will offer more enhancements, including crosswind assist, which will use the vehicle’s existing ESP sensors to help control the van when it’s buffeted by strong crosswinds. Service intervals have been increased from 15,000 miles to 20,000 miles and a new, seven-foot roof height has been added. It will also be available in an all-wheel drive configuration beginning next year.

A new van

Mercedes-Benz also announced the VS20 Vito mid-sized van, just recently introduced to the European market, will make its way to North America next year. This will provide contractors with a van that can be parked in their garages; important, since many municipalities restrict the parking of commercial vans on residential streets.

Der neue Vito / The New Vito
The new mid-sized van, the VS20 Vito, will offer contractors a vehicle that can serve their needs and also be parked in their garages.

Glaser said the VS20 was designed with the North American market in mind, and soon will become Daimler’s second global van.

The VS20 Vito the North American market sees may be quite different than the European version shown for the first time this week at IAA – and may even carry a different name – but here are some of the details of the European VS20 Vito: GVWR of between 2.5 and 3.2 tons; payload of 1,369 kgs; the front-wheel drive engine will be the OM 633 with 88 or 114 hp; the all-wheel drive will get the OM 651 engine with three power ratings, offering 136, 163 or 190 hp. We’re told  the powertrain on the US/Can VS20 will be a high-power 4-cylinder engine.  (Full spec’s will be available at launch at a date yet to be determined).


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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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