DaimlerChrysler Vans LLC, a recently formed business unit of the DaimlerChrysler Group, announced last month the start of distribution of the Class 2-3 commercial Sprinter van in the U.S.

The full-size van, designed by Mercedes-Benz, is being marketed here under the Freightliner nameplate. The vans are manufactured in Dusseldorf, Germany. Passenger vans arrive fully assembled while cargo models are shipped in semi knocked-down form for final assembly in the company's Gaffney, SC, plant.

Launched last summer, Huntersville, NC-based DaimlerChrysler Vans LLC, according to president & CEO Tim Reuss, has the exclusive role of establishing the Sprinter's dealer network as well as providing all sales, marketing and aftermarket support for the cargo and passenger van line.

Reuss said that 50 dealers, including 48 Freightliner Truck dealers, have signed on for the separate Sprinter franchise. And by the end of the year, he expects to have from 140 to 160 dealers in place. Reuss noted that DaimlerChrysler's Dodge dealerships “will also be approached” to help reach that number and to ensure coverage in key urban markets.

Initially, both the cargo and passenger version will be offered in two GVWRs (8,550 or 9,990 lb.) three wheelbases (118, 140 or 158 in.), and in choice of standard or high roof height.

The Sprinter is powered by a Mercedes-Benz 5-cyl. diesel engine rated at 154 hp. that is driven through an electronically controlled 5-speed automatic transmission. It also features an independent front suspension, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel disc brakes and antilock braking.

According to Reuss, Sprinter pricing begins at $26,300 and, depending on how equipped, can range up to around $36,000 for a “fully loaded” passenger model.

Reuss said cab/chassis and flatbed versions of the Sprinter will be available. DaimlerChrysler Vans LLC may market additional products down the road, possibly including a model for Class 4-5 applications, as well as the next generation of the smaller Mercedes-Benz Vito van now sold in Europe as both a cargo and passenger vehicle.

Go to www.daimlerchrysler-vans.com or circle 300 on reply card.

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