With little fanfare, the complete Sprinter line was returned earlier this year to Mercedes-Benz, the former Chrysler/Dodge corporate partner that developed the cargo and utility van in Europe and brought it to the U.S. as a Freightliner truck in 2001, then badged it as a Dodge vehicle in 2006. According to Mercedes-Benz, Sprinters will continue to be built in Germany and sold here, but they will be available only through select Freightliner and Mercedes-Benz dealers.
Meanwhile, Dodge insiders say the Ram trucks division is currently reviewing three work-van options being offered by its parent company, Fiat, and another Fiat commercial vehicle subsidiary, Iveco. Potential replacements for the Sprinter include:
- The Iveco Eco Daily, a tall Sprinter-like vehicle available in cargo, utility, and chassis-cab light-duty and heavy-duty models with three interior/exterior heights, three wheel bases, and four overall body lengths.
- The Fiat Doblo van, a familiar cargo hauler worldwide that competes with the Mercedes-badged Sprinter outside the U.S. Reintroduced in March as an all-around utility van, the new Doblo won top honors in its category at the 2010 Van Fleet World competition in London. Available in gas or diesel versions, it is the first utility vehicle to include a fuel-saving automatic start/stop feature like those used in hybrid engines.
- Another Fiat van, the all-new but yet-to-be-unveiled Ducato.
- Although the Sprinter officially returned to M-B in January, Dodge may not have another van on the road until 2012, according to sources, leaving a large hole in the company's work-truck fleet. Which raises the question: After Chrysler/Dodge split with Mercedes-Benz almost two years ago, didn't the company see this coming?