DaimlerChrysler Vans LLC has announced the start of distribution in the United States for the "Sprinter" commercial van. The new Class 2 and 3 light commercial vehicle, designed and powered by Mercedes-Benz, will be marketed under the Freightliner brand in the United States. "DaimlerChrysler expects the Sprinter to become a major player in North America," said Dr. Rolf Bartke, senior vice president of DaimlerChrysler responsible for the Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Unit. "The U.S. market plays a key role within the globalization activities of the DaimlerChrysler commercial van business," Bartke said. "As the market leader in its class in Europe, the Sprinter is one of the most successful products of the DaimlerChrysler Commercial Vehicle Division. The Sprinter offers a large load capacity and an attractive, powerful and economical engine, which translates into a competitive advantage for our customers: fleet owners, retailers, delivery companies and other vocational services." At the heart of the Sprinter van powertrain is the Mercedes-Benz 5-cylinder common rail direct injection engine. Providing 154 horsepower and 243 lb.-ft of torque, the diesel engine performs at the level of competitors' gasoline engines which are nearly twice its size, according to DaimlerChrysler. "The ultimate result of this engine technology is better fuel economy, a longer-life diesel engine and exceptional performance," Bartke said. DaimlerChrysler said the Sprinter is designed to achieve an average of 22 miles per gallon. The components feature long maintenance intervals, giving the Sprinter "a clear advantage in overall cost per mile of operation," according to company officials. The Sprinter comes standard with a 5-speed automatic transmission. "The Freightliner Sprinter is not just a product, but a tailored business solution that raises the bar on efficiency, egonomics, safety, reliability, and quality," enthused Tim A. Reuss, president and CEO of DaimlerChrysler Vans LLC. "It's an intelligent response to the demands on delivery vehicles created by today's fast growing business-to-consumer sector. The Sprinter has been designed to optimize vehicle safety, reliability, driveability, comfort, load stability and maneuverability -- in short, to be a leader in the van market," Reuss said. FedEx Express has ordered the first 1,900 units of the Sprinter van for the U.S. market. DaimlerChrysler Vans LLC delivered the first Sprinters top FedEx Express in June. DaimlerChrysler said it sold more than 105,000 units of the Sprinter worldwide in the first three quarters of 2001. The Sprinter is manufactured in Dusseldorf, Germany, with final assembly taking place in Gaffney, S.C. About DaimlerChrysler Vans LLC DaimlerChrysler Vans LLC, founded in June 2001, will take on the exclusive role of setting up a dealer network and developing all sales, marketing and aftermarket support for the Freightliner Sprinter. The headquarters of this DaimlerChrysler subsidiary is located in Charlotte, N.C., and will employ about 50 people.