Truck fleets with vans in the stable will soon have a versatile new vehicle choice, as Mercedes-Benz will offer a 4×4 version of the popular Sprinter Van beginning early next year, the company announced at the recent NTEA Work Truck Show.
“There’s a marketplace out there for all-wheel drive, not only in different geographical areas, but in different vocational areas – we’re talking off-site construction, oilfields, mining,” Claus Tritt, general manager of commercial vans for Mercedes-Benz USA, told CCJ in an interview at the show. “But we’re also talking about hotels, mountain resorts. It’s passenger transportation, it’s tools and crews and whatever the customer can imagine.”
Depending on the body style, the all-wheel drive system of the Sprinter 4×4 adds about 265 lbs., which means only a minimal effect on payload.
Previous versions of the Sprinter 4×4 have been sold in markets such as Europe and Australia.
“Is this a volume driver? No,” Tritt says. “But is this a valuable business proposition, the way we’ve positioned the product for potential operators? The answer is, absolutely, yes.”
The advantages of an OEM package versus a third-party conversion include the factory warranty and dealer service, he adds.
As to the success of the Sprinter Euro-style vans in the U.S., Tritt points to the shift by competitors to similar offerings; that is, to more efficient, more economical and more functional vehicles that make the total cost of ownership a key part of the equation.
The new investment by OEMs in the van segment is also a sign that the market is coming back.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” he says. “That means we did something right. The market is not evolving – it’s a revolution. There’s not a vocation that is not switching to these kind of vehicles.”
The 4×4 is another piece to company’s van strategy, he concludes.
“The Sprinter to me is the Swiss knife of the van business,” Tritt says. “You have to have enough blades in that knife to be successful. We’ve been pretty successful so far, but to grow you’ve got to do the right things.”
For details on the Sprinter 4×4, have a look at the Work Truck Show coverage by CCJ’s sister publication, HardWorkingTrucks.com.