Mega-trends such as digitalisation and electrification offer great opportunities for van customers’ industries while at the same time presenting them with major challenges. For example, the market for fresh food deliveries offers major commercial potential internationally. However, transporting temperature-sensitive goods demands optimal use and cooling of the cargo space, because these goods require, for example, different storage temperatures. The vehicle must also be able to be integrated into the logistics chain as efficiently as possible. In addition, end customers in this segment particularly value sustainability and CO2 reduction.
The same can be seen in other sectors: With the fast growth of online retail, courier express parcel service providers are seeing exponential order growth, but at the same time average revenue per consignment is falling. New mobility concepts and increasing cost pressure are changing passenger transportation. The desire for more sustainability and flexibility means that connectivity solutions are increasingly coming into focus. Construction clients, on the other hand, continue to need more classic van features: reliability, robustness and safety.
Mercedes-Benz Vans aims to meet all of these requirements and needs. The company relies on intensive cooperation with leading high-performance bodybuilders. At the “Clever Bodybuilder Solutions 2019” event at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Ludwigsfelde, Mercedes-Benz Vans, together with bodybuilders, presents a total of 34 outstanding bodies for the brand’s entire van fleet. The spectrum ranges from aluminium dump trucks to a bus for wedding guests and covered nine different sectors: “Trade and eGrocery”, “Service and Crafts”, “People Mover”, “Restricted Mobility”, “Camper Van”, “CEP and Logistics”, “Construction”, “Emergency, Rescue and Municipal” and “Further Industries”.
Fully electric refrigerated vehicle for delivering food products
Key themes included the current challenges in the digitalisation, electrification and sustainability sectors. Examples of this are two vehicles from the eGrocery sector. In a customer co-creation approach, Mercedes-Benz Vans and bodybuilder Kerstner developed the “Arctic Fox”, which is based on the eVito and is a perfect eGrocery vehicle for urban areas. It has an electric drive and an electrically operated cooling system, so that food products can be delivered with zero local emissions. Its innovative feature is that the cooling system is connected to the vehicle electrical system, which minimises the need for additional batteries. In September, the “”Arctic Fox” demonstrated its suitability for everyday use in a four-week pilot project with online meal kit provider HelloFresh in Belgium. The “Arctic Fox” supported up to 50 deliveries per tour and was able to keep the temperature in the cargo area (chilled goods) reliably. Thus it fulfilled the urban delivery use case successfully. The aim is to extend the concept for zero local emissions delivery of temperature-sensitive products to other sectors and series in future.
Connectivity solutions in the Mercedes-Benz Vans fleet
Even in the basic vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, modern connectivity solutions, electric drives and sustainability play a major role. In June 2018, Mercedes PRO connect – the digital solution for networked fleets – was a highlight of the introduction of the third generation Sprinter. Since then, fleets have benefited from a continuously expanding range of services.
Mercedes PRO is the digital service brand of Mercedes-Benz Vans for all services and solutions offered by the day-to-day fleet business. As a solution for vehicle fleets, Mercedes PRO connect optimises communication between fleet managers, vehicles and drivers. The networking solution enables orders to be managed online and vehicle information such as location, tank fill level and maintenance intervals to be retrieved in near real-time. Its advantages range from minimised downtime due to predictive maintenance and repair management to preparation of clearly structured data for business analysis. Fleet operators from small businesses to major clients benefit from the web-based service. For camper vans based on the Sprinter, the Mercedes me connect services familiar from the Mercedes-Benz car series, such as maintenance, accident and breakdown management, telediagnostics and remote vehicle diagnostics, are also available. In addition, the Mercedes Sprinter offers the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) with intelligent voice control, as well as the intelligent Mercedes-Benz Advanced Control interface for camper vans. This is an interface module which does away with the division between the basic vehicle and the living area, connecting the components in front of and behind the B-pillar and making convenient operation via a central location possible.
Production: RFID in standard production use
Mercedes-Benz also relies on modern digital solutions in vehicle production. The Mercedes-Benz plant in Ludwigsfelde, for example, occupies a leading position in the field of intelligent production and the digitalisation of production. Prior to the start of production of the new generation of the Sprinter, the company introduced networked technologies such as RFID (radio-frequency identification) in standard production use in order to further increase flexibility and efficiency in manufacturing. This was celebrated by the plant as a milestone on the path to the fully networked “factory of the future”. The staff in Ludwigsfelde already had extensive prior experience with RFID. As early as 2012, driverless transport systems were established there in some areas of assembly. They are controlled in part by networking with the plant’s IT system, and in part by RFID. Among other things, the Mercedes-Benz Vans experts in Ludwigsfelde are currently testing artificial neural networks that can be used for comprehensive intelligent production control. In addition, the production processes are subject to a continuous improvement process that takes into account ergonomics, reliable qualitative output and economic efficiency.
Vehicle portfolio: heading for a zero emissions future
Mercedes-Benz Vans is also rigorously pursuing the electrification of the portfolio. The first model in the eDrive@VANs strategy, the eVito has been available on the market as a panel van and Tourer (electricity consumption combined: 24.2 – 20.2 kWh/100 km; CO2-emissions combined: 0 g/km) since the beginning of 2018. For the second model of the commercial fleet, Mercedes-Benz Vans will be equipping the new Sprinter with an electric drive at the end of 2019. Positioned as a commercial and private vehicle, the all-electric MPV EQV (combined power consumption: 27.0 kWh/100 km; CO2 emissions, combined: 0 g/km, details provisional) will expand the model range. The technical highlights include a range of 405 kilometres (details provisional)2 and rapid charging of the high-voltage battery from 10 to 80 percent in less than an hour.
With the electric drive range of models, Mercedes-Benz Vans intends to electrify all commercial vehicles in the future. Following on from the eVito and the eSprinter, the Citan will therefore complete the range in future. But vehicle development alone is only one part of the Mercedes-Benz Vans electromobility strategy. A major objective is to integrate modern vehicle technology into a holistic ecosystem. For this reason, the experts from Mercedes-Benz Vans are developing a tailor-made operator concept together with the customer.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: intelligent, interactive and innovative
Whether it’s refrigerated vehicles, delivery vehicles, rescue vehicles, passenger transporters or camper vans – with its broad product portfolio, Mercedes-Benz Vans provides the perfect basis for a wide variety of body and conversion solutions. The third generation of the Sprinter defines the class of large vans with a gross vehicle weight around 3.5 t to 5.5 t. Virtually every sector can benefit from the typical features of the Sprinter. It is robust and durable, practical and comfortable, strong and economical. What’s more, with its numerous design options, as a customised van it is leading the way: panel van, crew bus, chassis, crew cab and traction head can all be ordered with a variety of options and special equipment. For the first time, the new Sprinter covers all three drive variants – front-wheel, rear-wheel or all-wheel drive – allowing it to be optimally aligned to the requirements and driving profile in each case. In addition, the legendary van offers unique networking possibilities, for example with the digital services of Mercedes PRO, the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) with intelligent voice control or interfaces such as Mercedes-Benz Advanced Control (MBAC) for camper vans. MBAC is an interface module which networks selected components in the body area and enables them to be controlled via a central location. An important technical requirement for MBAC is the parameterisable special module (PSM). The PSM is a clearly defined interface between the vehicle and the body electronics. As well as facilitating the exchange of information, its purpose is to control vehicle and body functions in both directions.
Vito and Vito Tourer: for the most diverse requirements
Whether it’s skilled crafts, trade and commerce, a shuttle service, a taxi service or any other kind of service: the Mercedes-Benz Vito is a medium-sized van that adapts perfectly to the most diverse requirements. As a panel van it can be used for transporting materials or prove its worth as a service vehicle with workshop equipment. For transporting passengers the Vito Tourer is the right choice. With two possible wheelbases, three lengths and three drive variants, the Vito is the versatile all-rounder of medium-sized vans with a gross vehicle weight around 3.0 t. The van offers a large range with its three lengths, Vito compact (4.90 m), Vito long (5.14 m) and Vito extra long (5.37 m). The Vito is also on the pulse digitally: Following on from the Sprinter, many digital services based round the Mercedes PRO connect ecosystem are available for Vito variants with conventional drive as well.
Mercedes-Benz Citan: a master among its peers
Like all other models with the star, even the company’s smallest van is constantly being developed and equipped with new features. As a result, since the first half of 2019, both the Citan Tourer and the Citan panel van have been available to order with a high-torque four-cylinder diesel engine with 1.5 litre displacement, new six-speed manual transmission and SCR technology. The engine family (OM 608) meets the requirements of the current Euro 6d TEMP emissions class and is available with a choice of three performance levels. The technical highlights of this engine generation include a close-coupled exhaust gas cleaning system with AdBlue® technology, an electrically controlled turbocharger with a variable turbine geometry for optimised response and a common rail injection system with 2000 bar injection pressure.
Mercedes-Benz X-Class: the robust pickup for a variety of uses
Hard at work during the day and enjoying the freedom at the weekend – the Mercedes-Benz pickup is both a commercial vehicle and a comfortable everyday vehicle. The X-Class combines the typical features of a pickup with the classic strengths of a Mercedes. It is robust, resilient and all-terrain. At the same time, with its comfort, vehicle dynamics, aesthetics, individuality, safety features and networking it offers all the qualities of a Mercedes-Benz car.
Intensive collaboration between brand and bodybuilders
The growing complexity of transport tasks and integration into the value chain demand maximum professionalism when adapting vehicles for commercial use or use as leisure and camper vans. In this respect, the Bodybuilder Centre (BB centre) is the hub of Mercedes-Benz Vans. In close collaboration with external companies, body solutions are not only designed here, but also validated and approved for sale on the basis of the strict quality requirements of Daimler AG. The range of tasks managed by the BB centre also includes technical support, direct sales and various aftersales projects for both private and commercial needs. The BB centre checks and evaluates the quality of the bodybuilder operation in all areas. In addition to technical expertise, the focus is on the quality of sales, service and technology.
For more than 15 years, Mercedes-Benz Vans has being working intensively with bodybuilders on marketing joint product solutions. With its partnership models, it is strengthening this cooperation even further. Within the models for collaboration, Mercedes-Benz Vans offers two different partner labels:
Mercedes-Benz VanPartner – individual solutions as dual-invoice transactions
Mercedes-Benz VanPartner is the basis for a more intensive partnership and is intended for bodybuilders whose individual partner solutions deliver impressive competence and expertise. Around 90 per cent of all vehicles are sold through dual-invoice transactions, where orders for the van or delivery van with the star and its body or conversion are placed and invoiced separately. Each manufacturer is responsible for the servicing, warranty and guarantee of its own element. Bodybuilders for individual partner solutions already have the opportunity to achieve Mercedes-Benz VanPartner status in 35 countries via a rating system.
Mercedes-Benz VanSolution – standardised solutions in single-invoice transactions
Mercedes-Benz VanSolution is the partner model for standardised body solutions ex works. Within the VanSolution partner model, Mercedes-Benz Vans recognises strategic partners who are also involved in the development of new products. Standardised body and conversion solutions ex works are included in the Mercedes-Benz Vans price lists. They are offered, financed and sold directly as single-invoice transactions. Body and conversion solutions are also treated as an original Mercedes-Benz Van model for maintenance, service, guarantee and warranty – they are complete vehicles from a single source. In addition to the above points, this offers the end customer further advantages: only one point of contact, no additional waiting time between order and delivery, a single adaptation and configuration process.
Information and marketing via BB portal and Conversion World
In addition, Mercedes-Benz supports bodybuilders through the bodybuilder portal (BB portal). The BB portal, which was opened in 2004, serves as an interface for exchanging information and data between Daimler AG and its partners. 7,800 bodybuilders from the Mercedes-Benz Vans, Trucks and Special Trucks divisions use the portal for their daily work. With around 4,100 participating specialists, the bodybuilders that build and convert the Mercedes-Benz Vans basic vehicles form the clear majority. The importance of the information hub is underlined by the number of users in 2018: around 350,000 visits with 2.2 million page views made the BB portal the central exchange platform, with 1.1 million documents available to access. Mercedes-Benz Vans and its partners ensure industry-specific expertise and a high level of quality for all conversions by focussing on nine sectors. These include “Trade and eGrocery”, “Service and Crafts”, “People Mover”, “Restricted Mobility”, “Camper Van”, “CEP and Logistics”, “Construction”, “Emergency, Rescue and Municipal” and “Further Industries”.
With Conversion World (https://conversion-world.mercedes-benz.com/), Mercedes-Benz targets its end customers. Here, prospective customers can find particularly popular ex works standard solutions, which have been developed in collaboration with partners. Numerous solutions are also presented by Mercedes-Benz VanPartners as dual-invoice transactions. The information available on Conversion World is as diverse as the range of vehicles itself, covering the needs of both a private camper van owner and a local public transport fleet manager. In total, Conversion World, which was introduced at IAA Commercial Vehicles in 2018, already includes more than 227 conversions by around 150 partner companies. Users can compare body and conversion solutions directly and make direct contact with the providers. Range has been determined on the basis of Directive 692/2008/EC. The range is dependent on the vehicle configuration, and in particular on the selected maximum speed restriction. The actual range is also dependent on the individual driving style, road and traffic conditions, the outside temperature, use of the air conditioning system/heating and may differ.  Power consumption and range information is provisional and has been determined by the Certification Technical Service in accordance with UN / ECE Regulation No. 101. The EC type approval and conformity certification with official figures are not yet available. Deviations between this data and the official values are possible.