Mercedes-Benz Vans strutted out a teaser sketch of the next generation of its large Sprinter van arriving next year, which will have an "athletic" new appearance up front and a host of the latest driver assistance and connectivity features — and maybe even a few technological surprises.
Ambitiously calling this "the most important launch in the van sector in 2018," the OEM said the new van would "set new standards" for appearance in its segment and provided some further clues on what's to come.
That will include more driver assistance/safety features and telematics connectivity, but M-B Vans is keeping details of those under wraps for now. Current model Sprinter vans already include things like lane-departure warnings, cross-wind assist to help when the wind whips up, a load-adaptive electronic stability system and more.
However, the company did note that the third-generation Sprinter will be its first new model to represent the new "adVANce" development concept the OEM announced in late 2016.
That initiative targets future digitalization and urbanization technologies in transforming mere "vans" and "vehicles" to segment-specific "mobility solutions." Mercedes-Benz Vans explained that adVANce could include things like automated cargo loading and unloading systems — perhaps even incorporating wheeled helper robots, from the looks of a few illustrations released last fall.
Also part of adVANce is a forward-looking take on mobile service and service contractor vans. M-B Vans said it's working on "intelligent" parts management systems that would allow automated reordering and delivery of items directly from and to the van itself.
Beyond the appearance refresh and additional technology injection, the company pointed to more economical Sprinter production on the way for the North American market.
Mercedes-Benz Vans is building a new plant that will produce Sprinters in North Charleston, SC, and once that facility is finished, it will reduce costs and delivery times to market. For now, though, Sprinters are built in Germany, and the ones destined for this market are partly dismantled in order to avoid import tariffs.
They're then reassembled at Mercedes-Benz Vans' smaller existing facility in North Charleston when they arrive on these shores. That will continue, the OEM said, and the new Sprinter will be built at the Mercedes-Benz's Dusseldorf and Ludwigsfelde facilities in Germany — at least for the near future. The new Sprinter plant in North Charleston is expected to be completed before the end of this decade.
In the meantime, the current Sprinter van has marked a new milestone. Some 96,200 units were sold around the globe during the first half of 2017, topping the prior record of 95,100 for the first half of 2016, M-B Vans said.