It’s official; as of January 1, 2010, the much-loved Sprinter van, made by Daimler, will once again have the three-pointed star in the U.S.—and be sold by Mercedes-Benz rather than Dodge.
Automotive News reports that the Sprinter will be sold by 120 appointed dealerships as part of Daimler Vans USA, a new entity that shares its corporate headquarters with M-B USA. Meanwhile, Freightliner franchises, which have sold Sprinters as well, will continue to do so, and the vans will still be built in South Carolina.
And if you’re thinking about a Sprinter, you might want to hold off until then; the model will be relaunched with the more modern 3.0-liter BlueTec turbo-diesel V-6 that’s offered on the Mercedes-Benz ML320 BlueTec, along with variants of the GL-Class and R-Class. The new engine in the Benz SUVs makes 210 horsepower and 398 pound-feet, while the older 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6 currently in the Sprinter makes 154 hp and 280 lb-ft.
The move is yet another blow to embattled Dodge dealers, close to 350 of which sell the Sprinter. Chrysler already cut its dealership network significantly earlier this year, but for 2010, as a new pipeline of Fiat-influenced vehicles is being connected, the stores need to make do with a model lineup that’s essentially carried over from 2009—except for new heavy-duty trucks still set to arrive later in the model year, along with a few other changes like a refreshed interior on the 2010 Dodge Caliber. The once popular Durango has also been discontinued.Sprinter sales have been slow for the past couple of years, after peaking in 2006, but AN reports that might be because of a lack of financing for small business owners.
Chrysler is reportedly looking into the possibility of bringing Fiat’s commercial vehicles to North America instead.
1997 Dodge Ram Wagon
One option we’re not likely to see is the return of the Ram Van and Ram Wagon. Those models, once extremely popular as part of the vanning culture of the 1970s and ’80s, then group-transit mainstays, were discontinued at the end of the 2003 model year, after seeing few changes in many years, and replaced by the more fuel-efficient Sprinter.