Daimler AG is betting big on its upcoming all-new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van for the U.S. market.
According to recent images, the next-generation Sprinter van is beginning to take shape.
Photographers in Germany captured the future Sprinter van during testing of two different configurations: a work-ready chassis cab and an integrated motorhome version.
The photos show the Sprinters heavily cladded in camouflage and black plastic panels to prevent a good look at the new design, which may debut next year as a 2019 model.
The side profile shows a new kink in the windows that causes a dramatic upward swoop. Photographers also suggest the new van will adopt design cues from the smaller Mercedes V-Class, sold as the Metris van in North America.
The photographers were even able to sneak interior shots of the next Sprinter. They show a modernized cabin with gloss black features, enlarged air conditioning vents and dynamic instrument cluster styling.
Curiously, there appear to be paddle shifters affixed to the steering wheel as well, indicating that drivers will have the option of changing gears in a sporty fashion.
Sprinters come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from bare-bones haulers with more than 500 cubic feet of cargo volume to extended-wheelbase luxury vans with seating for 12 passengers.
The van has carved a niche for itself in the U.S. market, hitting an all-time sales high of more than 26,000 vehicles in 2016. Sales through the first six months of 2017 are down slightly by 0.6 percent compared to the same period last year, according to Autodata Corp.
Mercedes will soon double down on its investment here. Work is underway on a $500-million factory in North Charleston, S.C., that will build the next-generation Sprinter in the U.S. – rather than in Germany – by 2020.
“It will really be engineered in Germany and produced in the U.S.,” Mathias Geisen, a general manager at Mercedes-Benz Vans, told Trucks.com in March.
Mercedes has struggled to supply U.S. dealerships with enough vans to meet demand. It is forced to undergo a costly reassembly procedure once the Sprinter hits American shores to avoid the 25 percent “chicken tax” on imported light trucks.
Both issues are expected to be solved with the new plant, Geisen said.
“The key is time to market,” he said. “Here we are much more flexible and that will be a huge competitive advantage.”