Stuttgart, Germany – Mercedes-Benz Vans plans to move some Sprinter commercial vehicle production to North America from Europe.
In announcing major expansions to German van plants, Mercedes officials said the United States has become of the No. 2 world market for the vehicle after Germany, but profitability has been poor because of tariffs.
Because of the high import tariffs, the Sprinters for the U.S. market have so far been produced at the two German plants, partly dismantled in a time-consuming process, and reassembled at the plant in Charleston, South Carolina.
This process results in a significant competitive disadvantage on the U.S. market for Mercedes-Benz, since it leads to long delivery times, makes the vehicle more expensive for U.S. customers, and is therefore not economical in the long term in view of the expected growth in demand.
"We can cover the growing demand for large vans in the North American market economically only if we produce the vehicles locally in the NAFTA region. That's why we have decided to produce the next generation of the Sprinter in North America as well," says Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. The automaker will decide on the exact location for the future production of the new Sprinter in the NAFTA region during the coming months by means of the usual plant selection process.
About 23,000 Sprinter vans were delivered to U.S. customers in 2013, and Mercedes expects that figure to grow this year and into the future.
Mercedes also announced plans to upgrade the van plants in Düsseldorf and Ludwigsfelde, putting €450 million ($572 million)into them.
"Our plants in Düsseldorf and Ludwigsfelde have a highly skilled workforce that has built up a comprehensive stock of van production know-how over a period of several decades. That's why we are putting these two plants at the center of our production strategy for the next generation of the Sprinter as well. Through investments of almost half a billion euros, we will safeguard the long-term competitiveness of our German plants and make them fit for the fierce global competition in this segment," says Mornhinweg.