Responding to the aggressive attacks both Ford and Ram Commercial have executed over the last two years, Mercedes-Benz has announced it will likely build its next-generation full-size van, the Sprinter, in the U.S. or Mexico.
The Sprinter used to be the only "euro-styled" full-size van on the market for several years, but it's now feeling the squeeze from growing Ford Transit and Ram ProMaster full-size van sales. The Sprinter sells about 2,000 units per month in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, but it is at a price disadvantage when compared to its new competitors because the Sprinter is built in two different plants in Germany, shipped overseas and then reassembled at a facility in South Carolina. Moving production to the U.S. would mean Mercedes could produce the van at a lower price and have access to a potentially wider fleet and small-business consumer base.
Both the rear-wheel drive Transit and front-wheel drive ProMaster offer several wheelbase and roof-height configurations as well as gasoline and diesel engine options; the RWD Sprinter does not. Both Ford and Ram Commercial spokespeople have identified this segment as a potentially fast-growing segment as the U.S. economy gains strength.
According to Automotive News, timing for such a significant production move is unclear, but is likely a result of a new direction Daimler wants to take once its partnership with VW changes after 2016.
Cars.com photo by Mark Williams