Sprinter van gains share in world market, shuttle industry

Posted on April 8, 2014

Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner Sprinter Vans come in multiple models and designs for all types of group transportation purposes, including passenger service to and from airports and hotels. Photo by Mercedes-Benz.

TORRANCE, Calif. — A team from the Mercedes-Benz USA Sprinter division visited METRO Magazine and companion auto fleet magazines owned by parent company Bobit Business Media recently. The team discussed industry trends and gave an overview of Sprinter vehicle offerings. Additionally, they brought seven Sprinter van models for editor test drives and rides.

Despite more competition across all van segments, the presentation, citing both company and industry trend statistics, asserted that Mercedes-Benz has worked to build on its near 130-year legacy of quality, precision, durability and luxury branding.

Mike Antich (L), associate publisher and editor of Automotive Fleet magazine group, hosted a team from Mercedes-Benz at Bobit Business Media on Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Pictured (L to R): Claus Tritt, general manager of operations of the Commercial Vans division of MBUSA, Antje Williams, department manager of the Sprinter Brand Management division of MBUSA, and Christian Bokich, department manager of product and technology communications at MBUSA. Photo by Tim Crowley/LCT Magazine.

In a comprehensive update on the Sprinter van, Claus Tritt, general manager of operations of the Commercial Vans division of Mercedes-Benz USA, explained how Mercedes-Benz van products overall have dramatically outpaced the growth in the worldwide van market. Since 2009, the market has grown 35% while Sprinter sales have vaulted 155%. Mercedes-Benz sold 163,000 Sprinter Vans worldwide in 2013, with U.S. clients buying 22,000, making it the second largest Sprinter Van market behind Germany at 36,000 vans sold, Tritt said.

In the U.S. large van market, Sprinter ranked third in 2013 sales, behind Ford and Chevrolet, but ahead of GMC and Ram, ranked fourth and fifth respectively. Jan/Feb year-over-year sales of Sprinter Vans in the U.S. were 2,709 units, up 17.5% compared to the 2,305 units sold during the same months last year. Sprinter and GMC are the only two commercial van brands to gain market share during the first two months

Sales of all Mercedes-Benz commercial vans, including the Vito, Viano, Vario and Sprinter model lines, rose from a recession low of 165,576 in 2009 to 270,100 last year. Tritt estimates that there is still significant pent up demand in the van market with many over-aged vehicles.

In the U.S. market, passenger transport models comprise 15% of the domestic Sprinter market, with construction trades buying up the biggest share at 60%. The U.S. model mix consists of five Sprinter Vans: cargo, passenger, cab chassis, crew and minibus. Within the passenger segment, the transportation niche consists of limousine, campus transport, team vans, shuttles and touring vans.

Mercedes-Benz photo gallery: Sprinter Van Model Exteriors and Interiors

Among the Sprinter Vans, models come in either Mercedes-Benz or Freightliner brands. The differences between the two lie primarily in the design of external trimmings and features, but they retain the same mechanics, performance and amenities. All Sprinters come in the four-wheeled 2500 models or rear-double wheeled 3500 models with four- and six-cylinder clean diesel options.

Passenger models on display at Bobit Business Media this week include three standard 144-inch wheelbase 2500 vans, fully loaded, priced from $58,010 to $60,255, and one 170-inch wheelbase 2500 van priced at $59,495. All have 11 + 1 seating and GVWR of 8,550 pounds, and come in two roof heights.

Photo gallery: Bobit Business Media Sprinter Event

For complete specs, options and packages on all Sprinter passenger vans, go to:

In a review of the 2014 models and a preview of the 2015 models, Antje Williams, department manager of the Sprinter Brand Management division of Mercedes-Benz USA, outlined the design, safety, efficiency and mechanical features of the Sprinters.

Photo by Vince Taroc

Among key changes for MY 2015 Sprinters:

    - Crosswind Assist safety feature that comes as standard equipment on Sprinter 2500 models. This feature operates above 5O mph and employs adaptive ESP yaw sensor that detects lateral wind forces and an adaptive ESP counter that steers by selective lateral brake intervention.   

    - A new line of high-range 4x4 models with available low range transfer case. Models include six-cylinder models of the crew van, passenger van, cargo van with 8,550 GVWR, and cargo van with 11,030 GVWR.

Beyond standard passenger Sprinters ideal for airport shuttle, hotel shuttle, small group and seniors home transporting markets, passenger transportation operators can choose among a wide selection of customized luxury Sprinter configurations from a list of certified Mercedes-Benz upfitters. For a list of upfitters, go to Mercedes-Benz- approved upfitter list here.

As Sprinter gains U.S. market share, Mercedes-Benz is growing its network of 244 sales-and-service outlets, Tritt said. The company prefers to add dealerships incrementally to ensure uniformity of standards, such as a three-hour turnaround time for repairs of commercial vans. Each hour in the shop is one hour the vehicle is not earning revenue, Tritt said. Dealerships are required and incentivized to undergo quarterly training to keep abreast of Mercedes-Benz service improvements and standards, he said. Mercedes-Benz treats its categories of customers based on their different needs, which means the company must have the right people and quality standards in place. “If you can’t do it right, you don’t do it all,” he said.

Power Point: BBM Sprinter presentation here

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 won the Vincentric “Best Fleet Value in America” award for MY 2013, with judges praising the vehicle as “. . . a clean sweep, with the lowest lifecycle costs in each of the 20 cost scenarios measured. Strong results in fuel, insurance, and repair costs helped this full-size passenger van outperform competitors from General Motors and Ford.”

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