The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: a success story begins

Mercedes-Benz classic transporter range
Mercedes-Benz L 319 D in Santa Cruz, USA

1955: The first Mercedes-Benz express truck

The name “Sprinter” had not been found yet – and yet one of the automotive industry’s greatest success stories harkens back to this year: in 1955 Daimler, named Daimler-Benz AG at the time, launched the first express truck. The small van was known as the L 319 and the minibus as the O 319. The well-designed vans are a combination of passenger vehicle and commercial vehicle – and rapidly establish their own class. The van is born.

"Bremer" type 207 D and 307 D panel van

1967 and 1977: The “Düsseldorfer” and “Bremer”

The generation succeeding the L 319 continues its success story: in January 1967 Daimler-Benz AG presented the new L 406 D and L 408 large vans along with the O 309 minibus, built on the same base. Roughly half a million units roll off the assembly line in Düsseldorf until the end of production in 1986. An angular look, a short-nose design – in 1977 Mercedes-Benz heralds in a new epoch for the van. The TN series (“Transporter new”) sets standards: with maintenance-friendly, powerful engines and individually tailored weight classes. In the first few years the TN was also known as the “Bremer” because it was produced in Bremen. As of 1986 the smaller vans became known as the T1.

The Mercedes-Benz classic transporter 1977

Whether a delivery van, platform truck or combi: The Mercedes-Benz transporter has been ideal for diverse use in every industry since 1977 – as this early advertising film humorously demonstrates.

T1 Bremer Transporter, Typen 207 D, 208, 307 D und 308 aus dem Jahr 1977.

1989: The Transporter – more agile and efficient

The T1 is redesigned. The new models run with 2.3 and 2.9 liter diesel engines. Lower exhaust emissions with greater performance: Mercedes-Benz heads the way toward EU standards. The final 10,000 “Bremer” manufactured are delivered to Deutsche Post as special order with Kögel bodies.

1995: The Sprinter – A star is born

A star is born. It is the first Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle with its own official name – and goes on to give its name to an entire class of vehicles. “T1N” is the first model’s internal designation and it is produced in Düsseldorf. The Sprinter redefines the van. The engines: 2.9 liters with five cylinders, electronically controlled injection and exhaust gas recirculation. Self-supporting chassis, rear-wheel drive with powerful traction and full drum brakes. A modern undercarriage with independent front wheel suspension. Unique. The van in a completely new dimension. The Sprinter also sets new safety standards: it comes with the ABS brake system and a driver airbag as standard. Numerous variants are available from the very beginning: Kombi and panel van, flatbed and chassis, normal and high roof, three different wheelbases, weight classes from 2.9 to 4.6 tonnes.

NGT Sprinter with natural gas engine 1996

1996: Record start for the Sprinter

A record in the very first production year: 103.711 Sprinter are manufactured in Düsseldorf. The factory is expanded, also becoming more efficient and more environmentally friendly. The emissions decrease despite rising production figures. Mercedes-Benz engineers continue to make ground-breaking advances with the Sprinter itself: the NGT Sprinter (Natural Gas Technology) is environmentally friendly with 92 kW (125 hp) with a range of up to 250 kilometers, the 308 E electric variant up to 80 kilometers. The Sprinter is now being produced in Buenos Aires (Argentina), as well.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 316 CDI Kombi

2000: The first Sprinter model update

Mercedes-Benz makes its top-of-the-line model even better – and continues its leadership in the van segment. The 140 prototypes of the T1N are now powered by new CGI engines with four and five cylinders, with a capacity of 2.15 and 2.7 liters and 82 to 156 hp. The series consolidates its position as the technology pioneer in the commercial vehicles segment. Common rail injection, four-valve technology and an exhaust gas turbocharger with variable turbine geometry, the first automated gearbox (ASG) “Sprintshift” and ABS with even better performance. The front section is redesigned, headlights with reflectors perfectly illuminate the road and window bags are added in addition to the driver and passenger airbags. The newly designed gear shift contributes to the top-of-the-line driving comfort: it takes the form of a joystick on the middle console. Production is running at full pace: The Düsseldorf factory hires 450 new employees and now works around the clock in a three shift operation. Deutsche Post AG remains so impressed with the Sprinter that it orders another 9000 units in one go.

The Sprinter as part of the Freightliner brand.

2001: A new heavyweight – the 6 tonne Sprinter

The Sprinter gains a new weight class: The six tonne is available as a tipper, flatbed or chassis with a normal cabin or double cabin. It features a sturdy integral frame running straight for the full length of the vehicle and without curving inward around the rear axle. Perfect for heavy duty work. The research on the environmentally friendly drives continues: the Sprinter is tested with fuel cells and hydrogen fuel. The North American group brand Freightliner markets the Sprinter for the US market under its own name.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter model update 2002

2002: Second model update

The second model update makes the Sprinter more powerful, more comfortable, safer and more economical than ever. Mercedes-Benz once again proves its status as an international safety pioneer: the new Sprinter Kombi and panel van up to 3.5t are the only vehicles in their class fitted with ESP in combination with ABS, ASR and BAS as standard. The vehicle’s look is also updated. The Düsseldorf factory is expanded. The euro is introduced.

Mercedes-Benz model 2004

2003 to 2004: the one millionth Sprinter

On 14th November 2003 the one millionth Sprinter runs off the assembly line in Düsseldorf. Mercedes-Benz donates the anniversary vehicle to the World Childhood Foundation, an organization dedicated to homeless children worldwide. The production in Germany is distributed among two plants. Düsseldorf continues to manufacture the closed models (panel van and Kombi), the open models (chassis and flatbed) are now produced in Ludwigsfelde near Berlin. In addition, another prototype line is set up in Sindelfingen. Mercedes-Benz start the “Transporter training on tour”: Customers purchasing a Sprinter in Germany can receive free training in safety, load securing and economical driving. At the IAA in 2004, Mercedes-Benz presents the “Safety innovation platform” study and the safety technology of the future on the basis of the Sprinter. Adaptive ESP, lane change assist and distance-keeping cruise control. The same time, the Düsseldorf plant is expanded again, just before the Sprinter’s 10th birthday.

The new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2006

2006: The new Sprinter

Versatile, powerful, safe and comfortable – after 11 years and 1.3 million units sold, the time has come: the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has a successor. The new generation is even better: the models are powered by four and six cylinder engines that exceed the 200 hp barrier. There are around 1,000 basic models. Naturally, the safety has been further enhanced: the standard ESP now reacts in perfect harmony with the vehicle’s weight and load: ADAPTIVE ESP takes commercial vehicle safety to a new level. The interior of the new model almost resembles that of a passenger vehicle. It includes state-of-the-art technologies such as the COMAND multimedia unit or convenient controls for vehicle functions via steering wheel buttons. A rain and light sensor controls the driving lights and windscreen wipers. The super-high roof variant of the panel van sets new standards. Daimler invests 500 million euros in the Düsseldorf plant for the conversion to the new generation. The factory now has an area of 675,131 square meters.

The Sprinter 316 LGT is equipped with a liquid petroleum engine

2010: The Sprinter – environmentally friendly and quiet

The Sprinter 316 LGT (Liquefied Gas Technology) is launched – quieter and more environmentally friendly than any series model before. The Sprinter is now offered overseas under the Mercedes-Benz brand name. The “Sternchen” daycare center with 85 places is opened at the Düsseldorf factory. One third is reserved for company members and the other spaces are for the public. In addition, the plant also offers a dual course of study in Electrical engineering. Deutsche Post orders another 1,300 Sprinter.

Sprinter, 2012, gearbox, 7G-TRONIC

2012: Sprinter plant birthday in Düsseldorf

The Düsseldorf plant celebrates its 50th birthday – a day of celebration for the 6,500 employees. The plant now encompasses an area of 688,000 square meters and has manufactured around 3.5 million vans in its 50 year history. It remains the central Sprinter production facility. At the IAA Commercial Vehicles, Mercedes-Benz presents the Sprinter E-CELL prototype with an electric engine. Its typical efficiency continues to improve: The BlueEFFICIENCY series transforms kinetic energy into electrical energy during braking and stores it. The 7-speed converting gearbox “7G-Tronic” makes the automatic Sprinter even more comfortable, economical and environmentally friendly.

New Sprinter 2013

2013: The best Sprinter of all time

After more than eight million test kilometers and another 25 million euros invested in the Düsseldorf and Ludwigsfelde plants, the time has come: the best Sprinter of all time commences production in Düsseldorf, once again taking on a pioneering role for the entire vehicle class. The new Sprinter features new assistance systems. The Side Wind Assist celebrates its début in the van segment, for example. Distance and collision warning systems, a lane-keeping assistant, a blind spot assistant and headlight assistant are also included. The Sprinter once again redefines van safety. It is also equipped with state-of-the-art diesel engines (OM 651) which fulfill the mandatory Euro VI standard a year in advance. The seven-speed automatic gearbox is further enhanced and becomes the 7G-TRONIC plus with ECO start-stop. In this year the Sprinter also commences production in Nischni Nowgorod in Russia. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Classic is now manufactured under license by the partner company GAZ.

Sprinter 4x4 wins the Aïcha des Gazelles rally in 2014

2014: Global vehicle with record sales

The response from the customers proves the Sprinter’s success. The vehicle achieves a new sales record of more than 186,000 units in 2014. The ESP-supported, innovative Side Wind Assist becomes a standard feature of most Sprinter variants, guaranteeing even greater safety at no extra cost. The factories around the world are working at top speed: A total of 186,114 Sprinter are produced in Düsseldorf, Ludwigsfelde, Buenos Aires/Argentina, Charleston/USA, Fuzhou/China in 2014 and also in the Russian city of Nischni Nowgorod since 2013. Yet the majority of the vehicles still originate from Düsseldorf. Internationally, there are also reasons for celebration: Buenos Aires produces its 250,000th Sprinter and 25,800 units sold is a new sales record in the USA.

2015: The global success story continues

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter sets a new efficiency record in its class: the standard consumption as per NEFZ combined decreases to only 6.1 l/100 km. Mercedes-Benz also launched an exclusively equipped limited edition model for the Sprinter’s 20th birthday. The “Edition Sprinter” is available for the panel van and Kombi variants with the Brilliant Silver Metallic paint finish. In Düsseldorf the four millionth van runs off the assembly line, a Sprinter Kombi. The plant donate it to the Red Cross driving service in Cologne. Mercedes-Benz Vans makes international investments – half a billion dollars will be invested in a new complete plant for the Sprinter in Charleston/USA as of 2016. The newest Sprinter generation will be manufactured for North America. Düsseldorf and Ludwigsfelde will also produce the newest generation of the Sprinter. Düsseldorf will be expanded to become the competence center for the Sprinter’s worldwide production. All of the employees at Mercedes-Benz Vans are contributing their know-how, ambition, expertise and experience to make the Sprinter even better. The pioneer continues onward. The success story goes on.