Sprinters now come in a 4x4 version. Photo: Tom Berg

Sprinters now come in a 4x4 version. Photo: Tom Berg

Mercedes-Benz Vans announced that it will invest about $500 million to build a new van plant in Charleston, S.C., to build the next-generation Sprinter van for the North American market.

The plant's location was officially announced Friday morning in Charleston by Mercedes-Benz and state government officials.

The 200-acre-facility will feature a completely new body shop, a paint shop and an assembly line. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016.

Officials said the new plant is essential because the large van segment is expected to grow rapidly in North America over the next few years.

Sales of new-model full-size commercial vans rose more than 11% in 2014 as several manufacturers transitioned to European-style vans and phased out less fuel-efficient models.

Having a U.S. plant also will alleviate the high U.S. import duties and complex disassembly process the company is currently using to ship Sprinters made in Germany for sale in the U.S.

First introduced in 1995 and available in the U.S. since 2001, the Sprinter van paved the way for the acceptance of Euro-style vans in the U.S. Officials said it currently holds approximately 9% of the large-van market in the country, where it is offered as both a Mercedes and a Freightliner branded vehicle.

In 2014, the company delivered around 26,000 Sprinters to U.S. customers – the second-largest sales market after Germany.

The Mercedes Benz Vans division this week also announced it will add the Metris series of medium-sized vans to its product range in the U.S. beginning this fall.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet