CHICAGO. By paying close attention to the market it serves, Mercedes-Benz USA is enjoying rising sales and an uptick in market share for the Sprinter van and cab-chassis models it sells through 202 select Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner dealers in the U.S., said Claus Tritt, gm of commercial vans for Mercedes-Benz USA, at an editorial ride-and-drive event held here yesterday.
According to Tritt, as of August, Sprinter’s market share in the U.S. stands at 7.8%, or 0.7% higher than a year ago. By comparison, he said for the same period, Ford’s share has dropped 5.2% to 48.5% (no doubt due to the announcement from that OEM of its venerable E-Series reaching the end of the line).
He also said Chevy’s share had climbed 1.4% to 30.8%, that GMC’s was up 1.1% to 9.3% and that Nissan’s had risen 1.0% to 3.6%. In other words, Tritt observed, Sprinter was now within shouting range of being #3 in market share in “a market that is going in the right direction.”
Tritt said Sprinter’s year-over-year sales as of August were up from 10,673 to 13,608 units, for a whopping 27.5% increase. He said that 16,577 Sprinters were sold in 2011 when 229,106 vans of all makes were sold. For 2012, Mercedes-Benz USA is predicting industry van sales of 264,000 and Tritt said Sprinter’s sales for the year will be apace with that expected result.
Speaking before a backdrop proclaiming “Sprinter—The Original,” Tritt’s remarks seemed to suggest the OEM is confident its position in the commercial large-van market will continue to improve even as new competitive models come on the scene here.
The first of those to arrive, and the only one confirmed so far, will be the upcoming Ford Transit. Like the Sprinter, the Transit (not to be confused with its smaller sibling the Transit Connect already sold here) is a large van first launched in Europe. The Transit will replace the venerable E-Series (Econoline) van that is being discontinued in the Ford lineup. There is also speculation in the market that Chrysler’s Ram unit will at some point bring in a Fiat-based large van.
“The van market has not changed from 12 years ago and having others coming in [with large “Euro” vans] tells me the Sprinter concept is a success here, Tritt told Fleet Owner. “You know the saying about imitation and flattery.
“We do see the market going more and more toward the Euro-style van due to their versatility for a wide range of users,” he continued. “And it’s good for the consumer to have more choices—and this is a viable market for others to enter” with large vans.
Tritt also remarked to Fleet Owner that he is “not hearing anything [regarding vans]around GM. It is noticeably quiet there and that could mean there could be a big change coming from there in the future.” Indeed, it has long been thought GM might bring to the U.S. from overseas one of its large vans. Indeed, the OEM in past years had gone so far as to display its Opel van to U.S. customers and the media.
He noted that Mercedes-Benz USA’s German parent Daimler will next week display at a European truck show its new Citan van, which he described as being the size of a Ford Transit Connect.
“We’re looking at everything here” in terms of new models, he added, “but in every case, we must first make a strong business case as we have with the Sprinter.”