Mercedes to use home event to showcase its new product future

Date: Thursday, September 20, 2012

As well as displaying a trio of new vehicles, the Hanover commercial vehicle show will give Mercedes-Benz an opportunity to promote a new global approach, as James Dallas reports
Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles aims to build on the strong performance of its van division by cashing in on the cost benefits of a multi-market operation. At the Hanover commercial vehicle motor show in September it will display the range of LCVs that will spearhead a new global strategy.
First up is the seven-speed automatic version of its big-selling Sprinter van that has been available as an option in markets worldwide from July. The brand claims the 7G-Tronic system breaks new ground in the light commercial segment. The electronically controlled gearbox features a close transmission ratio in first gear to banish sluggishness when pulling away but operates at low engine revs at higher speeds to save fuel, cut emissions and reduce noise.
“There is a suitable gear for every driving situation and the ratio difference between the gears is low,” says the manufacturer.
It expects about 10% of UK customers to opt for the 7G-Tronic Sprinter.
Mercedes claims the Sprinter range now delivers impressively low fuel consumption, starting from 40.5mpg when combined with Blue Efficiency technology and a new, wider rear axle drive ratio, which reduces engine speed by up to 6%.
Mercedes has also upgraded its standard-fit Adaptive ESP package to include a Brake Disk Wipe system to improve braking in wet conditions. As well as increasing production in Latin America, Mercedes is now rolling the Sprinter off the assembly line in China with the Vito and the Viano.
Alongside the Sprinter the brand will showcase the seven-seat Crewbus derivative of its Vito E-cell in Hanover, which it is to make available in 16 European countries. Based on the battery-powered panel van that was introduced last year, it has a range of 81 miles and a top speed of 55mph. Mercedes is targeting the electric passenger carrier at operators looking for a non-carboniferous van for short distance, multi-stop shuttle use in “emissions sensitive” areas. This could include airports, hotels, restaurants and university campuses, for example.
The E-cell Crewbus is based on the long-wheelbase Vito panel van and features a two-seat bench in the middle and a three-seat bench in the rear in addition to the driver and front passenger seats. To conserve battery power, the optional auxiliary heater is powered by liquefied gas.

The electric motor, with 60kW power output and 280Nm torque, is housed under the bonnet and drives the front wheels. The 360V, 36kW lithium-ion batteries sit beneath
the floor in the passenger compartment. Mercedes says the Vito E-cell can be charged in five hours and regenerative braking tops up the charge when on the move.
Like the electric van, the Crewbus is available under a four-year and 50,000-mile rental deal.
Attracting most interest on Mercedes’ stand at Hanover, however, will be the Citan. Although the small van, which is based on Renault’s Kangoo, has appeared at several media events already, this will be the public’s first chance to see it before it goes on sale in central Europe later this year and in the UK from January 2012.
Mercedes has big plans for the Citan – it says the European small van market accounts for 700,000 sales a year and it wants a 5% share of this pie. The brand has now revealed an official consumption figure of 65mpg with CO2 of 112g/km for the Blue Efficiency model.
Mercedes says it will gauge the reaction to the Vito E-cell before introducing an electric Citan but admits that if one does come, it is likely to have more in common with Renault’s Kangoo ZE than with its own, larger, battery-powered vehicle.
The Citan’s marketing director, Bernd Stegmann, explains: “We would probably go the ZE way. It makes cost sense to take full advantage of our cooperation partner – the technology is there.”
The Citan is aiming at the city van segment in traditional European strongholds, while penetration is deepening in expanding markets such as China and Russia, where Mercedes has teamed up with domestic manufacturer Gaz to produce vans.
Mercedes’ decision to adopt a more global approach comes on the back of a strong performance by its van division in 2011. The brand’s LCVs grew earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) by 85% in 2011 to €835m (£657m) and increased return on sales to 9.1% from 5.8% the previous year. Van boss Volker Mornhinweg says: “Our plan is to break the 400,000 sales mark by 2015 – that’s growth of more than 50% compared with 2011.”

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