NORTH CHARLESTON, SC. By the end of 2016, Mercedes Benz Vans LLC plans to introduce a new line of commercial upfit packages crafted in partnership with various suppliers for its full-size Sprinter and mid-size Metris vans, grouped under the name “Master Solutions.”
The company also plans to add a basic low-cost “Worker” cargo van platform for its mid-size Metris by year’s end as well, starting at $25,995, noted Mathias Geisen, general manager for product management and marketing for Mercedes Benz Vans.
“We’re adding those options because the vocational business right now is strong,” Geisen told Fleet Owner here during a media event at the company’s assembly plant, who added that Sprinter already features a base “Worker” model that starts at $32,495 with new “worker” variations on the way for Sprinter by the end of the third quarter this year.
“We’re seeing a trend shift from pickup trucks to vans and from small vans to large vans in this [vocational] segment as the convenience of a covered workspace becomes more attractive,” Geisen stressed.
He added that the commercial full- and mid-size van segment is one of the only vehicle markets currently growing with significant strength. “Heavy-duty truck sales are flat and car sales are flat” Geisen explained. “The only business growing strongly is vans, and that’s growing by 20%.”
Taking advantage of that growth is why Mercedes Benz Vans is continuing to roll out a bevy of options, he stressed, adding the soon-to-be-offered “Master Solutions” upfit packages – such as for refrigeration service or pre-installed shelving and ladder racks – to current options such as factory-installed four wheel drive (an option currently sold out worldwide for the rest of 2016, Geisen ruefully admitted) and safety technologies such as rear view cameras, lane keeping assist and active parking assist, to name just a few.
“Now people in the U.S. are more used to alternatives to pickups; now they have many more options to choose from,” Geisen noted, pointing not only the Sprinter and Metris but the Transit and Transit Connect from Ford Motor Co. and the ProMaster van series from Ram Truck.
Dshamal Schoetz, head of the “Master Solutions” program for Mercedes Benz Vans and a one-time basketball player for the Jordanian men’s national team, told Fleet Owner that the focus of the new program is to provide a better “fit and finished tool” for a wider variety of commercial van owners.
“Everything we’re putting onto these vans has a work purpose; these have nothing to do with ‘infotainment’ features,” he explained. “It’s providing a better work tool all in one package; one that fits like a glove.”