Mercedes-Benz Vans enjoyed a record sales year in 2017 after its volume rose 12 percent to 401,000 units largely because of strong demand for the midsize Vito. The base of the Daimler division's strength, however, comes from the large van segment, where the recently updated Sprinter accounts for every second vehicle it sells. Investments in the next-generation Sprinter hurt profitability last year but Mercedes Vans boss Volker Mornhinweg said the unit still achieved its strategic target of a 9 percent operating margin. He discussed the division’s outlook with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Christiaan Hetzner.
You just launched the new Sprinter large delivery van. What expectations do you have for the Sprinter?
We forecast a significant increase in volume for this year compared with last year. That being said, we do not provide future sales targets for the business or for individual models such as the Sprinter. We did, however, achieve a new record last year with more than 200,000 Sprinters sold, despite it being in the final year of its life cycle.
How has the LCV business changed?
In the past, we thought purely in terms of conventional vehicle attributes: length, width, height and payload. Today, it no longer suffices simply to offer a range of different vans for various requirements. The customer wants to optimize his entire value chain now. And we have to think of ourselves as an integrated solutions provider
What did you do?
About two years ago we began changing our approach from a straight-forward vehicle manufacturer to a provider of holistic end-to-end solutions tailored to the individual transport needs of our various customer groups. The new Sprinter is the first core product to reflect this.
What does this mean?
Take the example of a courier. How can we help a customer be more efficient starting from the moment they start loading packages up the ramp to the moment the driver returns after his route? Digitalization offers all sorts of possibilities to improve his profitability in the future.
How does that work?
Our Vision Van concept showcased a fully automated cargo area that can transmit information in real-time about the number of packages still in the hold. Transporting perishable goods such as groceries or sensitive pharmaceuticals can be better guaranteed by permanently measuring the temperature inside the vehicle. Another example comes from the connectivity solutions that the new Sprinter offers.