Daimler Offers Van Customers MasterSolutions To Their Upfitting Needs
- August 4, 2016
- Mercedes-Benz, On The Road: Driving Impressions, The Car Biz, Trucks & Towing
- Posted by Ed Kim
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As published on Forbes.com
Daimler’s Sprinter commercial van has been a pioneer in the North American market, introducing commercial customers here to the tall and slab-sided European-style van format all the way back in 2001. Today, this format’s U.S. sales surpass that of the traditional American-style van as the latest full-size commercial vans from Ford and FIAT Chrysler Automobiles have followed Sprinter’s lead.
The commercial van segment is experiencing something of a renaissance thanks to improving economic conditions, so fresh product action in the segment is welcome. Certainly, Daimler Vans USA, responsible for offering the Sprinter in the U.S. under both the Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner brands, can’t afford to be complacent as it seeks to expand its presence in the U.S. commercial van market, especially as Ford’s new European-style Transit has been extremely well received in the marketplace.
A core component of commercial vans’ utility is their ability to be upfitted to the customer’s needs. These vehicles are blank slates, ready to be modified to suit the job at hand. As one might expect, there is a dizzying array of upfitter solutions out there representing varying levels of quality and integration.
To that end, Daimler Vans USA and Mercedes-Benz USA have introduced MasterSolutions, an expansion of the existing MasterUpfitter program that provides stringent guidelines for upfitters to follow to ensure Daimler-level standards of quality. MasterSolutions allows the customer to order an upfitted vehicle tailor-made to the customer’s requirements directly from from Mercedes-Benz Vans or Freightliner Vans dealerships.
Both Sprinter and Metris MasterSolutions vehicles are configured and customizable to specific vocations and needs, from refrigeration to tool and parts storage to passenger transportation. When a customer orders a MasterSolutions package, the vehicle is sent from Mercedes-Benz Van’s reassembly plant in Ladson, South Carolina (Sprinter and Metris cargo vans are built in Europe but shipped partially disassembled to the U.S. as a workaround to the infamous 25% tariff on imported trucks, commonly known as the Chicken Tax) to one of three MasterSolutions partners that performs the upfitter conversions. Upon completion, the vehicle is shipped to the dealership for delivery. The competitively priced MasterSolutions upfitter packages can be financed with the vehicle through Mercedes-Benz Financial Services and Daimler Trucks Financial.
The three MasterSolutions partners are well regarded veterans in the upfitter market. Knapheide, Auto Truck, and SmartLiner handle the conversions and in many cases utilize proven German upfitter components from companies like Gruau (refrigerated vans) and Sortimo (shelving and storage solutions) that have already proven their mettle in their home market.
I had the chance to drive some of these vehicles this week in and around Charleston, South Carolina. Certainly, the level of quality, fit and finish, and integration of these MasterSolutions conversions was extremely high – much higher than many other aftermarket upfitter conversions I’ve seen. I was also impressed at how pleasant both the massive Sprinter and mid-sized Metris are to drive. The Sprinter is shockingly easy to handle due to its small turning circle and high seating position, and the Metris is – dare I say – fun to drive with a zippy turbocharged four-cylinder powertrain and agile handling.
Certainly, providing customers with an easy and cost-effective way to upfit their vans with the highest quality components is a plus in an increasingly competitive commercial van marketplace. Mercedes-Benz Vans and Freightliner Vans products have been catching on in a segment dominated by Ford, and the introduction of the MasterSolutions program is part of a larger overall growth strategy. This also includes expanding the value-priced Worker trim level on the Sprinter cargo van to the Sprinter passenger van as well as the smaller Metris cargo and passenger vans and longer term, construction of an all-new factory to build (not just reassemble) Sprinters in the U.S. by 2019.
With all these measures, Daimler Vans USA seems poised for healthy growth in the coming years.