If you've ever visited Germany, you know that Mercedes-Benz doesn't exactly carry the high-end cache in its homeland that it does in the US. While the Three-Pointed Star is still certainly known for its luxury sedans and sports cars, the brand also represents most of the taxis on the road, and its Sprinter vans make many of the deliveries. The upscale image in North America might be beneficial when trying to lure new buyers to a CLA-Class, but Merc is seeing pushback from some commercial buyers who think its vans are too ostentatious for them.
Mercedes USA has created a dedicated van unit, and one of the group's first tasks is to fight this belief. It has already begun targeted, web-based ads advertising the truck's monthly payments to show potential customers they can afford it. "We want to align perceptions with realities," said Christian Bokich, Mercedes USA Product and Technology Manager. A standard Sprinter in the US starts at $35,920 with a 144-inch wheelbase and standard roof, and the largest models provide the most cargo space among competitors.
The company also has another way to sell the Sprinter – Freightliner ; these models are identical other than the grille. According to Automotive News, that brand sees most of the van's large fleet orders.
Despite some customers being turned off by a commercial Mercedes, Sprinter sales are growing. According to AN, the van's sales were up 25 percent in March to 1,915 units, and February was up 18 percent. For 2014, the US model receives a new standard powertrain that pairs a 2.1-liter four-cylinder BlueTEC diesel, making 161 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque, with a seven-speed automatic, and an all-wheel drive version is on the way. Mercedes is out to prove to the US that it is as good at vans as it is with plush sedans.