Mercedes-Benz Vans will invest $500 million to build a new van plant in Charleston, SC, and begin production of the next-generation Sprinter there in 2016. Currently the Daimler van group builds U.S. market Sprinters in Germany. The vans are disassembled and shipped to the U.S. for reassembly in a small Charleston facility to avoid high commercial vehicle duties known colloquially as “the chicken tax.”
The new plant will include a body shop, paint shop and assembly lines situated on a 200-acre site. It’s expected to employ 1,300 people when it opens. The plant will produce Sprinters under both the Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner brand names.
“This plant is key to our future growth in the very dynamic North American van market,” said Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans during a press conference called to announce the investment. Opening a manufacturing plant in the U.S. will support what Daimler expects to be a rapidly growing domestic market for commercial vans, while also fulfilling the company’s strategic plans to expand global van production.
“We couldn’t be happier to be the home of their first full manufacturing facility for vans in North America,” said South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley during the press conference. “Its decision to bring South Carolina-made vans to the North American market is huge, and the 1,300 new jobs this plant will create is a big boost to the region.”
In related news, Mercedes-Benz officially introduced its new Metris van this week at the NTEA Work Truck Show. A mid-sized van sold as the Vito in other markets, it is intended to complement the full-sized Sprinter.