DaimlerChrysler will distribute the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter commercial van in the United States under the Freightliner brand, selling it through both Freightliner and Dodge dealerships, according to Motor Trend
Distributing the Sprinter in the United States marks Freightliner's first major expansion into the light duty segment of the North American commercial vehicles market, a sector with a volume of about 360,000 units annually in the United States and Canada.
The Freightliner Sprinter is a Class 2-3 product (gross vehicle weight up to 14,000 lbs.) 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 panel van products developed for the European marketplace, such as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Ford Transit, have previously been deemed inappropriate to North American operating conditions and market needs. Its arrival could open up a new sub-segment of the commercial vehicle market, according to industry analysts.
The Sprinter van complements Freightliner's existing line of Class 3 - 6 walk-in van chassis products. Freightliner began assembly in May of the Mercedes-Benz-designed Sprinter in its manufacturing plant in Gaffney, S.C.
According to the Motor Trend
report, the Sprinter will eventually be built in the Uniteed States for both commercial and passenger configurations starting in 2006.
Carrying a base price of $26,300, the Sprinter will slot in above the Dodge Ram Van. Dodge hopes the large, diesel-powered van will help gain market share away from the Ford Econoline segment leader.
The Mercedes-Benz five-cylinder common rail direct-injection diesel engine provides 154 horsepower and 243 lbs.-ft of torque, delivering 22 mpg.
FedEX Express has ordered the first 1,900 units of the Sprinter van for the U.S.-market. DaimlerChrysler Vans LLC delivered the first Sprinter units to FedEx Express in June 2001.