NEW YORK. Although new to the commercial vehicle market, Mercedes-Benz USA dealers are quickly getting up to speed selling the Sprinter van and should deliver “a double-digit increase in sales in 2011,” according to Ernest Lieb, president & CEO of MBUSA. Sprinters are manufactured by Daimler Vans in Germany, and until last year sold in North American by Dodge and a small number of Daimler’s North American Freightliner Truck dealers.
Having taken over North American distribution and sales of the Sprinter from Dodge after Daimler sold off its stake in Chrysler, MBUSA currently has 135 dealers, including 49 of the original Freightliner Truck dealers, selling the large van. Over the last six months, two-thirds of Sprinter sales have come from Mercedes Benz dealerships, according to Lieb, which have been bringing in dedicated commercial vehicle sales personnel and concentrating on small fleet and retail sales. The other third are mostly large fleet sales through Freightliner dealerships.
Current plans call for adding another 40 dealers to the Sprinter network by the second quarter of 2011, according to Lieb, who told Fleet Owner the additional dealerships will be a mix of Mercedes Benz and Freightliner outlets.
MBUSA expects to end 2010 with sales of 8,000 to 8,500 units, according to Claus Tritt, GM for commercial vehicles. “With another 40 dealers and existing [dealerships] becoming stronger, we fully expect to see a double digit increase in sales next year,” he said. Overall Tritt estimates full-size van sales in North America will total 190,000 units this year and 200,000 to 220,000 units in 2011.
MBUSA has been slowly expanding the Sprinter lineup, recently adding a crew van model that combines room for five passengers with a stand-up cargo compartment. Having undergone a complete redesign in 2007, the Sprinter should see a facelift by 2014 that will include a new 6-speed automatic transmission, according to Tritt.
As for expanding beyond the full-sized Sprinter, MBUSA “is looking at everything now,” Tritt told Fleet Owner. “We feel strongly that there’s room for more [models]. The next two or three years will definitely see the van market changing and [moving towards] the European-style van. …We just have to evaluate the opportunities and risks.”