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YOU can no longer think of a van as just a van. At least that seems to be the consensus coming out of Mercedes’ Sprinter Innovation Campus in Stuttgart. Although it isn’t due to be launched until Spring 2018 the new Mercedes Sprinter has moved beyond being a simple vehicle, it is now an essential link in an “integrated system solution”.

Fortunately that isn’t as pretentious as it sounds.

All Mercedes has done is look at ways to create a product that can easily be adapted to suit a wide range of uses within a variety of sectors. As the Sprinter is best-selling large van it makes an ideal platform to build on.

Every van comes with a certain degree of choice in terms of wheelbase, load height, engine, and trim levels. The innovation in the third generation Mercedes Sprinter comes from a five-pronged approach that goes much deeper than mere specification.

digital@vans

As the name suggests this concentrates on connectivity and digital networking of vehicles. While the main focus in this area is going to be more relevant to businesses running a fleet of vans – courier services would be obvious beneficiaries – every business could make use of the technology to streamline costs and minimise time off the road for servicing.

The ability to keep track of vehicle location, routes, fuel usage, servicing intervals and the like allows every business to keep track of operating costs and see where savings could be made. The Mercedes PRO connect app can also keep drivers informed of new jobs and reroute them where necessary to ensure maximum efficiency.

solutions@vans

If you’re running a parcel delivery service you probably place more emphasis on open load space to fit in as many packages as possible. If you’re running a trade business racking and storage are probably more useful. Mercedes has taken a modular approach which allows them to create a vehicle tailored to the intended area of use.

State of the art shelving and storage solutions, refrigeration units, and a choice of open, closed or lockable compartments can be fitted to the new Sprinter, but the possibilities are much more diverse. There is even an In-Van Delivery & Return networking solution to save tradespeople valuable time which they can use for other customer orders. Parts which are no longer required are collected from the vehicle overnight by a logistics service provider without requiring any keys, and parts and tools required for the next day are placed in the vehicle.

rental@vans

Whether it’s long or short term there are times when an extra set of wheels, or a specific type of vehicle, comes in handy. Details on this particular area are a little vague at the moment, probably because Mercedes is rightly concentrating on the vehicle development, but we expect that this will be a major part of the whole integration strategy.

Focussing on innovative rental models could give the new Mercedes Sprinter an edge over its’ rivals when it comes to the flexibility many users require. Exactly how it will work will become clearer as the idea is developed but given how much thought has gone into the rest of the process we suspect it will prove equally impressive.

sharing@vans

In much the same way as the interior of the new Sprinter can be fitted with racking and storage it can also be fitted with seats and windows. Ride sharing services, bus routes, VIP transport, the new Mercedes Sprinter will be ideally placed to meet the requirements of them all.

A wide variety of seating options can be slotted into the Sprinter, as well as USB charging points and WiFi hotspots, which should translate to an easy transition between crew transport, mobile office, or luxurious private transport.

eDrive@vans

The ‘e’ obviously denotes electricity. Following on from the eVito – order books opened this week if you want one – the new Mercedes Sprinter is due for electrification in 2019. An electric van may not be for everyone but at least Mercedes are working with end-users to try and develop a system that works in the real world.

Alongside strategic partners, in this case Hermes parcel delivery service, Mercedes has begun a pilot programme which will kick off in Hamburg and Stuttgart early next year. The aim is to see Hermes operating a fleet of 1,500 electric delivery vans. Obviously if your business only operates a single van you won’t be in the same category as a multinational running thousands of vans. That being said, if the technology is feasible on the large scale it will help to reduce overall life-cycle costs – as well as iron out any problems – putting electric vans firmly within reach of smaller businesses, especially those operating in urban areas where emissions restrictions make electric vehicles the ideal choice..

Where is the new Mercedes Sprinter heading?

All of these innovations come under the umbrella of Mercedes-Benz Vans “adVANce” philosophy. You still get the reliability and economy that is integral to the Mercedes-Benz Vans brand, the adVANce programme aims to add to that with a truly integrated vehicle that fits seamlessly into your business.

It may sound a bit odd to be adding a van to the “internet of things” but that is the direction many manufacturers are heading. Be it driverless technology, seamless digital integration, or flexible configurations for a multitude of uses, the next generation of vans need to offer new technologies for the most diverse business uses.

There is so much more to a van than just the ability to carry stuff around. Modern businesses need to be able to react to conditions as quickly as possible to remain ahead of the competition. In an increasingly digital world it was only a matter of time before a digital van arrived.

It’s increasingly apparent that the new Mercedes Sprinter is going to be way ahead of the game when it is launched in 2018.

New Mercedes Sprinter
The Mercedes Sprinter is still defining the segment in its third generation

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