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Mercedes-Benz eyes increased Sprinter fleet sales

Fleet customers have their say on Mercedes-Benz’s new-generation Sprinter van

25 Oct 2018

MERCEDES-BENZ Vans Australia/Pacific is hoping to increase the sales of its Sprinter large van by continuing to engage with fleet customers – including ride-sharing operators – who had a say on the development of the third-generation model released this week.


Speaking to GoAuto this week at the Sprinter media launch in Adelaide, Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia/Pacific chief executive officer and managing director Diane Tarr did not reveal the sales projections for the Sprinter but was optimistic its volume would grow.


“My expectations are always strong,” she said. “Being number one, of course we want to maintain that position and sell more than this year.”


Even during its runout year, the Sprinter has lifted its year-to-date sales by 15.4 per cent, with the 2528-unit tally outpacing the Renault Master (1185 units), Ford Transit (653) and Volkswagen Crafter (444), among others, making it the best-selling large van in Australia.


According to Ms Tarr, the Sprinter has bucked the runout trend of slowing sales due to renewed interest from retail customers and the delivery timings for certain large fleet orders.


“Our retail sales are very strong,” she said. “It is very pleasing that we are seeing growth, even in that space in the runout year, so it’s not just fleet.


“However, the majority has come through from Australia Post and big fleets like that, and to be able to bring that into our sales and sustain through our runout year has been great.”


While Ms Tarr would not be drawn to the size of its recently acquired fleet contracts, she suggested that the Sprinter was well positioned to increase its volume due to Mercedes-Benz Vans’ new business model.


“We’ve won some really key, high-profile fleet deals; Australia Post being one of those, and some other couriers,” she said.


“With the strategy of our business going forward – and wanting to not just be a big van delivering goods, and being more of a partnership with some key fleet customers and future customers, and being more a holistic-solution provider – that really builds a stronger position for the Sprinter and that collaboration also creates longer-term opportunities for us.”


As a holistic-solution provider, Mercedes-Benz Vans will endeavour to become involved in ride sharing, with Ms Tarr highlighting one Sprinter body style as being ideal for the job.


“When you start to talk about technology around ride sharing, there is an opportunity in the space for (the minibus),” she said. “There’s a lot of trials happening in various parts of Australia … so it’s great to be able to offer a product in that people-moving space.


“We are also part of trial tests, through organisations, and once we come out of those trials, which is probably another 18 months off, we’ll see how that opportunity or that space is created for us, and I think it’s going to happen rapidly.”


Given the strong interest in the Sprinter from fleet customers, including those in Australia, their feedback played a key role in the development of the new model, according to Ms Tarr.


“Some really high-profile customers have had a few visits over to Germany and set those up with our fleet team, our headquarter team (to share) some of the requirements,” she said.


“As (Mercedes-Benz Vans) starts to development a new product, it draws on all the markets for feedback and input, and, as part of that process, we respond with our customers in mind; not only our fleet customers, but also our retail customers, too.”


When asked what feedback Australian fleet customers gave Mercedes-Benz Vans, Ms Tarr revealed that an expansion of the Sprinter’s suite of advanced driver-assist systems was an important request, with autonomous emergency braking now standard as a result.


“Occupational Health and Safety is a huge, huge consideration for fleets,” she said. “With that in mind, we need to make sure we have the safest vehicles … and sustain our position in the market, so we need to amp that up.


Given that Mercedes-Benz Vans has numerous global fleet customers with bespoke requirements, it set to reduce the workload of bodybuilders, who would be required to transition from one Sprinter generation to another, by retaining the rear-wheel-drive panel van’s load compartment dimensions.


As reported by GoAuto, Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia/Pacific is preparing to the launch a pair of fleet-friendly battery-electric vans, with the mid-size eVito going on sale next year, ahead of the eSprinter.


While the business cases for two new models are progressing, Ms Tarr was unable to provide firm timing for the eSprinter’s arrival Down Under, but an application for Australia to be a trial market has been submitted to Mercedes-Benz Vans.

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