Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler end Dodge Sprinter alliance
Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC announced Tuesday it will take back sales of the Sprinter commercial van in the U.S and Canada starting in January, effectively discontinuing the Dodge Sprinter that is sold by about 400 Dodge dealers.
Mercedes says it will take over sales, marketing, distribution and service of the van, which will be sold as a Mercedes-Benz or a Freightliner next year as part of a new division: Daimler Vans USA, LLC. The wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler AG will be based in Montvale, N.J., where Mercedes has its North American headquarters.
A Chrysler Group LLC official said the two automakers have "mutually agreed to discontinue their Dodge Sprinter alliance."
Chrysler, newly partnered with Italy's Fiat SpA, already is in advanced talks with Fiat's commercial vehicle subsidiary, Iveco, to fill the gap left by the Sprinter by bringing to North America some of Fiat's light commercial vehicles, namely the Fiat Ducato and Iveco Daily.
The Sprinter comes in three lengths. The Ducata is similar to the smallest Sprinter and the Iveco matches and exceeds the largest version.
The Sprinter was a Mercedes product. When it was first introduced to the U.S. market in 2001, it was sold under the Freightliner brand. The tall cargo van is built in Germany and sent in pieces to the Freightliner plant in South Carolina, where it is assembled.
After two years, DaimlerChrysler AG (formed after Daimler bought Chrysler Corp.) decided to sell the Sprinter as a Dodge. Some Freightliner dealers also continued to sell the commercial vehicle.
Daimler sold its last shares in Chrysler when the Auburn Hills automaker filed for bankruptcy this summer and the two automakers have wound down some operations. Relations have become tense between Daimler and the new Chrysler Group LLC that has been formed with partner Fiat SpA. Chrysler is suing Daimler over a breach of contract to deliver car parts.
Mercedes is expected to make some changes in the turbo-diesel van before it begins selling it.
"The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Freightliner Sprinter set standards in the sector for safety, customization and environmental responsibility, and we are proud to offer this product in the U.S. market under the three-pointed-Star," said Ernst Lieb, president of Mercedes-Benz USA, in a statement.
More than 130,000 Sprinter vehicles have been sold in North America, including about 100,000 by Dodge dealers. Chrysler officials say they are winding down fleet orders and many vans remain on dealer lots.
Chrysler sold almost 1,200 Sprinters last month, up 18 percent the same month in 2008. But year-to-date sales of about 4,600 have fallen by 56 percent.
LINK:Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler end Dodge Sprinter alliance | detnews.com | The Detroit News