Big news for anyone coveting the camper van lifestyle: The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter will now be made in the U.S. The Sprinter van has grown increasingly popular stateside as a base for camper van conversions, used by DIYers and custom outfitters alike. Love campers and trailers? Come join our community group.
Since 2006, Sprinters for U.S. customers were assembled in a South Carolina plant from components shipped from Europe. This process was cumbersome and “a huge burden” said Bernie Glaser, vice president of Mercedes-Benz Vans USA. “The logistics process is a nightmare.” But it was better than paying a 25 percent tariff on imports—also called the chicken tax—imposed on automakers that build vehicles overseas for the U.S. market.
To compete with American companies building more affordable vans like the Ford Transit, Mercedes-Benz broke ground in 2016 on a new $500 million addition to its commercial van factory in South Carolina. The state-of-the-art facility will employ a total of 1,300 people by 2020, up from 900 currently. According to estimates, suppliers will create an additional 600 new jobs in and around North Charleston.
Construction is finished and the plant is up and running, just in time to build the 2019 Sprinter van. The third generation Sprinter will offer new connectivity services and navigation software, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel six-cylinder engine, as well as the company’s first-ever gasoline model.
The first customer of the new 2019 Sprinters: Amazon. The e-commerce giant ordered 20,000 Sprinter vans that will be branded with Amazon logos and used in the retailer’s delivery service program. Mercedes-Benz Vans reports that this makes Amazon the world’s largest Sprinter customer.
“The USA is already the second largest market for our Sprinter today. With the new, state-of-the-art production site in South Carolina, we will be able to supply our customers in North America even faster and with more flexibility in the future.” said Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans.
What does this all mean for campers hoping to get their hands on a Sprinter van? The new plant should be better able to meet the growing camper van market and should significantly reduce delivery times. Better yet, the Sprinter is now a made-in-America vehicle.