Mercedes-Benz Vans is kicking off production of its new 2018 Sprinter van in its new plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, with more than 900 new employees putting together the next-gen model.
The new van is getting a big sales boost from Amazon, which is purchasing 20,000 of the new vans to help deliver packages across the U.S. The Amazon-branded vehicles will help improve delivery capabilities for small businesses.
Amazon’s new Delivery Service Partner program helps small business owners, who will work with third-party fleet management companies, procure customized vans and get special leases that keep startup costs low.
“We’re proud to partner with Mercedes-Benz Vans to contribute to local economies through the order of Amazon branded Sprinter vans produced at their new plant in North Charleston,” said Dave Clark, Amazon senior vice president of Worldwide Operations.
“Thanks to the tremendous response to Amazon’s new Delivery Service Partner program, we are excited to increase our original order of branded Sprinter vans to 20,000 vehicles so new small businesses will have access to a customized fleet to power deliveries of Amazon packages.”
The order confirms the van’s popularity in the U.S., where it is the second-biggest seller in the segment. North Charleston was built to meet the growing demand for work vans in the U.S.
The company invested more than $500 million to build the plant. Construction started two years ago and while starting with the aforementioned 900 employees, that number is expected to swell to 1,300 by the end of 2020.
“The new plant in North Charleston combines our global expertise and experience resulting in a state-of-the-art facility in every respect. It is a valuable asset that completes our global production network,” said Frank Klein, Head of Operations Mercedes-Benz Vans.
“Our priority at Mercedes-Benz Vans during the planning process for this facility was maximum flexibility. This enables us to react in an agile and anticipatory manner to current developments and customer desires. Additionally, it guarantees excellent quality within our proven, standardized production system.”
North Charleston is a state-of-the-art facility producing state-of-the-art vehicles. The third-generation van and its smaller sibling, the Metris, were initially built from knock-down kits. Now the entire process is a technological marvel encompassing 10 million square feet on 222 acres.
Production is controlled through networking with the plant’s IT system and via RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology. The associated transponders, incorporated into the factory floors, receive the necessary driving commands. The vehicles can also use Bluetooth to communicate with one another and coordinate automatically, thus guaranteeing smooth traffic flow at all times.
Among the biggest transformations is the paperless, digital production documentation, based on RFID technology. This allows for changes to be implemented seamlessly and immediately, cutting down on errors and other problems.
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As for the vans, which are marketed as Mercedes-Benz and Freightliners, they use the new multimedia systems MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience), the control and display concept in the cockpit, as well as ergonomically shaped seats and modern assistance. New standards are being set in the field of digitization and connectivity, which is why the new Sprinter can be described as the first van in a new category with a holistic overall system solution.