MONTVALE, N.J. -- Mercedes-Benz USA is getting back into the commercial van business Jan. 1 and will appoint up to 120 dealers to sell Sprinter vehicles.
That means Mercedes will yank the Sprinter from nearly 350 Dodge dealers who now carry the van.
The vans will be sold by the newly created Daimler Vans USA, which is sharing headquarters with the car division here.
Contracts will be terminated by Jan. 1 with the nearly 350 Dodge dealers who sell most of Daimlers Sprinter vans in the United States. The Dodge version of the Sprinter will be discontinued, said Ernst Lieb, CEO of MB USA.
Dodge has been selling the Sprinter since 2003.
About 45 Freightliner dealers who have the Sprinter franchise will continue to sell the Sprinter as a Freightliner, Lieb said. Beginning 2010, Sprinters sold by Mercedes-Benz dealers in the United States and Canada will be branded as Mercedes vehicles.
In January, the Sprinter will be launched with a 3.0-liter, V-6 common rail diesel that currently is used in the Mercedes-Benz M and GL SUVs and sold in all 50-states.
Freightliner or Dodge
When Daimler launched the Sprinter in the United States in 2001, it was branded either a Freightliner or a Dodge because U.S. buyers didnt know the vehicle, said Lieb.
It has now established itself, he said.
Claus Tritt has been appointed general manager of the new van unit. He previously worked at the van division for the now-defunct DaimlerChrysler in Auburn Hills.
The Sprinter is assembled at a semi-knockdown factory in Ladsen, S. C., which has a capacity of 32,000 units a year, said Tritt.
Freightliner dealers who also handle Daimlers commercial vehicles in the United States have a separate Sprinter franchise. They account for about 30 percent of Sprinter sales.
That means U.S. Mercedes dealers could sell about 18,000 Sprinters annually.
Lieb said Mercedes-Benz will approach dealers about taking the Sprinter franchise based on their potential in the market.
Said Lieb: We are dealing with a product that has been sold for nine years here, so we know where it sells best and in what market we can pinpoint where we need a dealer.