NEW YORK – The roll out of the first European-designed commercial van to reach these shores—the Freightliner Sprinter—is continuing apace, according to the executive charged with selling and supporting the Class 2-3 trucks in the U.S.

“We now have 53 commercial dealers signed up to sell Sprinter and another six to eight in the works,” Tim Reuss, president & CEO of DaimlerChrysler Vans LLC, recently told Fleet Owner. “We are also beginning the integration into our dealer network of successful Dodge truck dealers where we have no commercial-vehicle coverage, especially in urban areas.” Reuss has previously stated he expects to have from 140 to 160 dealers in place by the end of the year.

Reuss said careful selection of dealers is important to DaimlerChrysler Vans because the Sprinter was designed from the ground up to be a commercial vehicle—whether used as a cargo hauler or passenger mover—and is not a “derivative” of any automotive product.

Originally designed as Mercedes-Benz models for the European market, the vans are manufactured by DaimlerChrysler in Dusseldorf, Germany. Both the cargo and passenger versions are offered in two GVWRs (8,550 or 9,990 lb.), three wheelbases (118, 140 or 158 in.), and with a standard or high roof height. “Sprinters spec’ed with the medium wheelbase and the high roof have generated the most interest among buyers so far,” Reuss noted.

According to Reuss, a cab/chassis version of the Sprinter for applications that prefer having the box closed off from the cab area is due here by mid-year.

He said DaimlerChrysler Vans is also setting up a program of “preferred body builders by segment” that will make it easier to have the vans outfitted for various vocational tasks.

DaimlerChrysler Vans will market additional products down the road, according to Reuss, possibly including a model for Class 4-5 applications.

He said plans call for marketing the “successor” of the Mercedes-Benz Vito van, which will be an ’05 model, here. The Vito is roughly the size of a “regular” U.S. van and is sold in Europe in both consumer and commercial trim. Reuss also noted that the ’06 model year will usher in the next generation of the Sprinter.