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This Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 170-in Passenger Van was among several on display at Bobit Business Media Tuesday, March 25, 2014 as part of a presentation by a Mercedes-Benz team for the editors of auto fleet magazines, including LCT.
TORRANCE, Calif. — Mark 2014 as the Year of the Van in the chauffeured transportation industry as limo operators embrace a growing menu of choices in a vehicle niche best positioned somewhere between a stretch limousine and a mini-bus.
Mercedes-Benz —already an established, longtime luxury brand in the limousine industry — is refining and growing its premium-level Sprinter Van model choices as it draws two competitors this year in the chauffeured van market: The Chrysler RAM Promaster and Ford Transit Van, which both debuted last month on the floor of the International LCT Show in Las Vegas along with the widest array yet of Sprinter passenger and executive luxury vans. ILCT vehicle photo gallery here.
A team from the Mercedes-Benz USA Sprinter division visited LCT Magazine and companion auto fleet magazines owned by parent company Bobit Business Media on Tuesday. They brought seven Sprinter van models that will be on display in the parking lot and available for editor test drives and rides through next week.
Despite more competition across all van segments, the presentation, citing both company and industry trend statistics, asserted that Mercedes-Benz has worked to build on its near 130-year legacy of quality, precision, durability and luxury branding.
Mike Antich (L), associate publisher and editor of Automotive Fleet magazine group, hosted a team from Mercedes-Benz at Bobit Business Media on Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Pictured (L to R): Claus Tritt, general manager of operations of the Commercial Vans division of MBUSA, Antje Williams, department manager of the Sprinter Brand Management division of MBUSA, and Christian Bokich, department manager of product and technology communications at MBUSA.
In a comprehensive update on the Sprinter van, Claus Tritt, general manager of operations of the Commercial Vans division of Mercedes-Benz USA, explained how Mercedes-Benz van products overall have dramatically outpaced the growth in the worldwide van market. Since 2009, the market has grown 35% while Sprinter sales have vaulted 155%. Mercedes-Benz sold 163,000 Sprinter Vans worldwide in 2013, with U.S. clients buying 22,000, making it the second largest Sprinter Van market behind Germany at 36,000 vans sold, Tritt said.
In the U.S. large van market, Sprinter ranked third in 2013 sales, behind Ford and Chevrolet, but ahead of GMC and Ram, ranked fourth and fifth respectively. Jan/Feb year-over-year sales of Sprinter Vans in the U.S. were 2,709 units, up 17.5% compared to the 2,305 units sold during the same months last year. Sprinter and GMC are the only two commercial van brands to gain market share during the first two months
Sales of all Mercedes-Benz commercial vans, including the Vito, Viano, Vario and Sprinter model lines, rose from a recession low of 165,576 in 2009 to 270,100 last year. Tritt estimates that there is still significant pent up demand in the van market with many over-aged vehicles.
In the U.S. market, passenger transport models comprise 15% of the domestic Sprinter market, with construction trades buying up the biggest share at 60%. The U.S. model mix consists of five Sprinter Vans: cargo, passenger, cab chassis, crew and minibus. Within the passenger segment, the chauffeured transportation niche consists of limousine, campus transport, team vans, shuttles and touring vans.
Mercedes-Benz photo gallery: Sprinter Van Model Exteriors and Interiors
Among the Sprinter Vans, models come in either Mercedes-Benz or Freightliner brands. The differences between the two lie primarily in the design of external trimmings and features, but they retain the same mechanics, performance and amenities. All Sprinters come in the four-wheeled 2500 models or rear-double wheeled 3500 models with four- and six-cylinder clean diesel options.