Daimler Looking at Building Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in North America
Regional Success Prompts Consideration of Local Production
Since its North American introduction in the early 2000s, the Sprinter, in its various guises, has proven to be a hit with businesses. Its space-efficient tall-roof design and frugal diesel engine won a lot of buyers over and out of their more conventional fullsize vans. However, there has been one fly in the ointment of the Sprinter’s success in North America: its high price. That’s because in order to avoid the so-called “chicken tax,” the Sprinter is partially disassembled in Germany and then re-assembled in South Carolina, adding to delivery times, as well as adding additional expense. To make the Sprinter more competitive with the Transit and other competitors, Daimler issued a statement saying it is exploring the possibility of a North American production site for the Sprinter.
Citing the United States as the Sprinter’s second-largest market after Germany, Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, said the company can only meet the growing U.S. demand for large vans economically if they are produced in the NAFTA region. A decision on a production site for the new Sprinter could be announced in the coming months.
Mercedes-Benz already has an established production facility in Alabama, and its Freightliner heavy trucks brand has plants in North Carolina. Mexico also remains a possibility for a production site, as the country has free-trade agreements with both the United States and Brazil, two of the largest markets in the western hemisphere.