The Sprinter debuts

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DaimlerChrysler last month officially began distribution of its Freightliner Sprinter, a Class 2 to 3 full-sized van at a meeting of trade press and Freightliner dealers in Fort Myers, Fla.

Announced last March, the Sprinter van is being marketed under the Freightliner brand but is being produced and sold by a new subsidiary, DaimlerChrysler Vans, LLC. The van will be assembled in the United States, but manufactured at DaimlerChrysler facilities outside the country. Introduced in Europe in 1995, the Mercedes-Benz version of the van is the market share leader in Europe.

DaimlerChrylser officials say the van will compete with full-sized vans like the Ford Econoline. FedEx has ordered 1,900 Sprinters for its pickup and delivery service and took delivery of the first units in June. The van is available in three wheelbase lengths (118, 140 and 158 inches), two roof heights and both cargo and passenger configurations. The van’s high-ceiling version allows a 6-foot driver to stand fully erect. It also has an extremely tight turning radius.

The Sprinter is powered by a 5-cylinder Mercedes-Benz MB 612 diesel engine with 154 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 – 2,000 rpm. The Mercedes-Benz power train also features a W5A 380 5-speed automatic transmission. “This van will get 22 mpg,” says Tim Reuss, president of DaimlerChrysler Vans LLC. Diesel and gasoline powered competitors achieve between 12 and 16 miles to the gallon, Reuss says.

Although the Sprinter is essentially the same van that is sold in Europe, DaimlerChrysler will use the Freightliner brand in the United States because Freightliner is a commercial brand and DaimlerChrysler expects almost all of the Sprinter’s applications to be commercial.

DaimlerChrysler (www.daimlerchrysler.com)