Three good reasons for the Mercedes‑Benz minibus specialists in Dortmund to celebrate: A complete new generation of minibuses, based on the new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and featuring a unique range of technology modules, is currently lining up for the start. At the same time, the 25 000th minibus has just been handed over. And on top of that, there’s a birthday for the minibuses sporting the three-pointed star: It is now 20 years since Daimler joined forces with its bus and coach subsidiary EvoBus to enter the minibus segment, in a cooperation that can be counted as an extraordinary success story.
World premiere: new Mercedes-Benz minibuses with unique technology
The new Mercedes‑Benz Sprinter forms the basis for a totally new generation of the successful minibuses bearing the three-pointed star. As before, they comprise the model series Sprinter City, Sprinter Transfer, Sprinter Mobility and Sprinter Travel. The names stand for operations in line service, as a versatile shuttle bus, for transport of passengers with limited mobility, and for tourist transport.
A stand-out role is played here by the all-new Sprinter City 75 with its exclusive technology. At 8.5 metres long, this regular-service bus has seats for up to 38 passengers and features a unique frame structure. Its neat bodywork conceals some unrivalled technology. A special long wheelbase of 5095 mm, for example, provides the basis for a spacious low-floor platform between the axles. This can be put to flexible use with tip-up seats, wheelchair and pram bays, seating with a quick-change securing system or as standing space. Just as important is the heavy-duty rear axle, developed and manufactured exclusively for the Mercedes‑Benz minibuses. Its greater load-carrying capacity of 5.0 t provides the basis for a permissible gross vehicle weight of 6.8 t. Alongside the new Sprinter City 75 is the somewhat more compact Sprinter City 45.
The versatile Sprinter Transfer goes to the start with a comprehensive line-up. Its four models range from the 5.9-metre-long Sprinter Transfer 23 to the 7.7‑metre Sprinter Transfer 55, which features an extended rear end that complements the design perfectly. The Sprinter Mobility is the model series aimed specifically at carrying passengers with restricted mobility. The compact Sprinter Mobility 23 benefits from having a permissible gross vehicle weight of just 3.5 t. The Sprinter Mobility 45 deserves particular attention: a new raised floor has been added over the wheel arches. This allows two wheelchairs to stand alongside each other at the level of the rear axle.
The model start-up of the new minibuses will be staggered and will reflect the availability of the Sprinter: It will start later this year with the Sprinter Transfer 23 and 35, the Sprinter Mobility 23 and the completely re-engineered Sprinter City 75. The rest of the models in these series will follow next year, as will all models of the Sprinter Travel. Once the model changeover is complete, by autumn of 2019, the product range will comprise more than 20 left-hand-drive and right-hand-drive models.
Milestone: 25 000 minibuses, milestone model on the road in Italy
A big milestone for the little buses: On July, 5th 2018 Busitalia had a delivery of the 25 000th minibus by Mercedes‑Benz, a Sprinter City 65 K. The vehicle is being deployed by the subsidiary company Busitalia Campania in the southern Italian city of Salerno and forms part of a major order encompassing 30 minibuses of this type. Busitalia itself is a subsidiary of the Italian State Railways, “Ferrovie dello State Italiane”, and has in recent years already purchased several hundred full-size buses and minibuses from Mercedes-Benz.
The milestone vehicle features eye-catching two-tone paintwork in signal grey and ultramarine blue. Passengers can take their places on eight seats in the rear and two tip-up seats in the low-floor area between the axles. In addition to these there is a wheelchair bay and ample space for standing passengers. All in all, as many as 30 passengers can be accommodated in a bus just 7.0 metres in length. This minibus is fully air-conditioned as well as equipped with an enhanced heating system. It comes as standard with an air-sprung rear axle, the 7G-Tronic Plus torque-converter automatic transmission and a powerful diesel engine with an output of 120 kW (163 hp).
Birthday: 20 years of Mercedes-Benz minibuses – a great success story
As well as reaching this special milestone, the minibuses from Mercedes‑Benz are celebrating a “round” birthday: It is now 20 years since EvoBus began its activities in this segment by taking a significant share in the minibus manufacturer Karl Koch GmbH in Mudersbach near Siegen, thereby becoming the leader in this sector. Full acquisition of the business and the establishment of Mercedes-Benz Minibus GmbH, based in Dortmund, followed in 2004.
Minibus production in Dortmund had in fact gradually been ramped up since 2000 and has now been completely concentrated on the plant there for the past ten years. Extended several times in the intervening years, the plant now employs around 260 people, producing between 1200 and 1600 vehicles a year on three body-shell lines and four assembly lines. This makes Mercedes-Benz the European market leader for minibuses over 3.5 t gross vehicle weight rating.
The minibuses these days are sold to more than 40 countries. The largest market is western Europe, but customers in Australia, South-East Asia and the Middle East also form part of the regular customer base.
Apart from the specific advantages of the individual products, the minibus specialists’ recipe for success includes industrial production in Dortmund and close links to the development and production areas for the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter as the base model. All conversion work is checked and approved by the factory. All production processes meet the same high quality standards as apply for all Mercedes-Benz vans. EvoBus supports minibus customers and their buses after the purchase just as intensively as it does with full-size buses. From sales, production and service to subsequent recycling – in the case of the minibuses bearing the three-pointed star, everything is handled by a single company.