As an initial sneak preview of the new Sprinter, Mercedes-Benz Vans showed at the Sprinter Innovation Campus in Stuttgart how the best-selling van is set to lead the large van segment into a new era.

The adVANce future initiative which was presented in 2016 plays a central role here. Developments including new connectivity solutions lend it more concrete form and it will go into series production for the first time with the new Sprinter in the spring of 2018. For its third generation, the segment founder, best-seller and innovation flagship has been reinvented once again. Its internet connectivity, unique scalability, silent electric drives and individual hardware solutions for the load compartment, as well as the way it is combined with sharing and rental services, make the Sprinter the first integrated system solution. Integration of these innovations is geared exclusively to the individual customer benefit to be achieved in each sector and will be a boon to fleet managers and drivers in their daily work.

“The Sprinter is the flagship of our commercial fleet and embodies our approach towards an integrated system solution. Comprehensive industry-specific know-how, a vehicle that is adaptable to different transport requirements and innovative networking services add up to an all-embracing fully integral product offering. The Sprinter is the first example of this new class of vehicle from Mercedes-Benz Vans and represents our understanding of the concept of smart hardware in every respect”, says Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans.

Since its market launch in 1995, the Sprinter has been defining the large van segment in the most diverse fields. And satisfying customers in more than 130 countries. With sales to date in excess of 3.3 million units, the Sprinter is among the top-selling commercial vehicles and is the best-selling vehicle of Mercedes-Benz Vans, the globally successful van manufacturer.

Development focus: concentration on five fields of innovation

The adVANce future initiative stands for Mercedes-Benz Vans’ transformation from a vehicle manufacturer into a provider of fully integrated transport and mobility solutions. The development of products and services is shaped by five fields of innovation: digital@vans is concerned primarily with connectivity and the digital networking of vehicles. solutions@vans focuses on the development of hardware solutions that can make customers more efficient in their daily business. The area of rental@vans centres on innovative rental models, while sharing@vans pools new concepts in the field of public passenger transport. eDrive@vans embodies a holistic approach to electric mobility.

Sneak preview of the new Sprinter’s attributes

The third generation of the Sprinter, which will be presented in February 2018, serves as an innovation flagship for an entire vehicle class, above all by virtue of completely new networking services. The internet connection hardware is deeply integrated as an integral part of the vehicle’s infrastructure for the first time. This establishes an essential prerequisite for innovative sector-specific services and solutions and their ongoing development in the future.

“We have expanded the already wide-ranging Sprinter portfolio at relevant points and added a multitude of new product features. This will allow us to meet even better the requirements of our commercial customers in the various business sectors, all over the world. One of the particular features of the new Sprinter is its digital networking ability, which offers a whole host of new opportunities to improve efficiency and optimise processes throughout the customer process chain. The Sprinter is part of the Internet of Things and slots seamlessly into the digital world”, says Dr Ulf Zillig, overall project manager for the Sprinter at Mercedes-Benz Vans.

New role for the fleet in keenly contested markets

The mega-trends of digitalisation and urbanisation meant that companies and fleet operators are confronted with extreme challenges. The market for courier, express and parcel services is characterised by tight delivery deadlines, flexible delivery windows and high cost pressures. Overnight delivery is standard in online retail, for example, while the delivery of goods on the day of ordering, e.g. in the food sector, is becoming more and more important.

In order to survive in this highly competitive environment, vehicle fleets need to be integrated to an even greater degree than ever into corporate processes. This gives rise accordingly to a growing scope of applications for intelligent vehicles, which are required to play an even greater role in helping to keep companies with corresponding transport needs competitive and successful. Cutting-edge commercial vehicles are transforming from pure means of transportation into platforms for logistics concepts. While attributes such as reliability and economy remain integral to the Mercedes-Benz Vans brand, the future generation of vehicles additionally needs to offer new technologies for the most diverse use cases. Isolated solutions are giving way to a
well-conceived integrated system solution.

Innovative developments here cover maximum flexibility and integration of the vehicle into the corporate IT infrastructure and inventory control systems. In this way, value is generated along the entire value-added chain for the fleet. The vehicle becomes part of the Internet of Things. The Sprinter fits the bill here as an integrated system solution.

Various fields of innovation generate value along the entire value-added chain for vehicle fleets

  • Mercedes PRO connect: professional fleet management for small and medium-sized fleets, too
  • Variety: cutting-edge telematics solutions, a high level of perceived quality and a well-conceived stowage concept shape the cab workplace
  • Electric mobility: eVito available for ordering since a few days ago, eSprinter to follow in 2019

Maximum networking, the ultimate in adaptability and electric drives: in these three fields of innovation, the third Sprinter generation represents more than the evolution of an established vehicle segment. Rather, it embodies a totally new concept and a new positioning. The vehicle becomes part of the Internet of Things, opens up countless potential applications by way of maximum scalability from body variants to telematics system and also demonstrates the strategy which Mercedes-Benz Vans is pursuing in electrifying commercial fleets.

Mercedes PRO connect: Digital control over the fleet

Networking and telematics solutions play an instrumental role in optimising a fleet. Improvements in efficiency can be achieved, for example, with the help of an easily manageable controlling system involving such concepts as clearly comprehensible vehicle tracking and the availability of all key economic figures. Ongoing communication between fleet manager and driver and straightforward reminder functions for maintenance and repairs further facilitate everyday work. What was previously limited to isolated solutions for large-scale enterprises with correspondingly large fleets is now being introduced for medium-sized and smaller fleets. Following the launch of the “Mercedes PRO Adapter” retrofit solution in September 2017, the ex-factory solution that is fully integrated into the vehicle, a digital communication module, is now to be premiered on board the Sprinter.

The central services include vehicle status, vehicle logistics, fleet communications, maintenance management, accident recovery and a digital vehicle log, for example. All networking services are pooled under Mercedes PRO connect. The web-based service for fleet customers, from small trade enterprises to key accounts, links up the fleet manager with all vehicles and drivers in their fleet via the vehicle management tool. This enables jobs to be managed online and vehicle information such as location, fuel level or maintenance intervals to be retrieved virtually in real time. Clearly laid out and easy to use, the vehicle management tool provides the fleet manager with a complete overview of the fleet.

Intelligent networking and interpretation of the collected data enable new services which harbour direct added value for the customer. One of the most important topics relating to the future is networking of the load compartment. This enables driver and fleet manager to keep an eye on the items on board in real time on courier trips, for example. Mercedes PRO connect shares the data collected in the vehicle with the fleet managers via a cloud infrastructure.

Scalable and adaptable right down to the finer details

The versatility and adaptability of vehicles represent key criteria in meeting customer requirements in diverse industries. The Sprinter spans an unprecedentedly wide range of variants which goes well beyond different bodies, wheelbases or load heights.

The range extends from the basic version for price-sensitive customers who value the Sprinter’s proven virtues to the high-end variant with high-quality interior appointments. The stowage compartment concept exemplifies the adaptability of the interior. A choice of open, closed or lockable compartments within the roof liner and in the cockpit enables the configuration to be tailored precisely to the given requirements for the workplace behind the wheel. The central area of the instrument panel is dominated by intelligent infotainment systems. The new-generation telematics offering the ultimate in networking mark the top end of the product range. At the same time, a networked vehicle is also possible for users who decide against any form of infotainment system in favour of added stowage space.

“Modularity is not an end in itself – it is an absolute necessity. The scope of applications covered by the new Sprinter has never been so diverse. Our customers’ requirements range from luxury buses for use as VIP shuttles to construction site vehicles that can be cleaned using high-pressure equipment if need be,” explains Norbert Kunz, head of Sprinter product management.

Clear strategy: all commercial model series to be electrified

Mercedes-Benz Vans’ integrated strategy also covers the area of electric drives. All commercial model series are to be electrified in the coming years, starting with the eVito, which became available for ordering a few days ago and will be available in the second half of 2018. The eVito will be followed by the eSprinter in 2019. Tailor-made integrated system solutions do not evolve solely on the basis of an electric vehicle, however. Individual operator concepts accord due consideration to the fleet size, the driving profile or the structural requirements in establishing a dedicated loading infrastructure at the company’s site. The use of networking solutions, along with e-vehicle-specific financing and mobility concepts, form part of the overall solution and of an
all-encompassing ecosystem. This lowers the operating costs over the vehicle’s entire life-cycle substantially and renders the eSprinter and eVito competitive in the given commercial or industrial context.

Electrification of the model range is accompanied by a paradigm change
in development, with the focus shifting towards the customer co-creation model. Strategic partners such as Hermes are directly integrated into the ongoing development process. Logistics service provider Hermes and
Mercedes-Benz Vans will be launching a pilot phase in Hamburg and Stuttgart at the beginning of 2018. The deployment of the electric fleet will subsequently be expanded to cover additional conurbations, taking in 1,500 electric vans for parcel delivery operations. The knowledge and insights gained from this pilot project will be applicable in part to other industries, enabling a transfer of knowledge and technology which will ultimately benefit all customers.

Sector-specific expertise provides the basis for an expansion of potential uses

  • Trades and service: networking solutions make everyday work easier
  • CEP and online food retailing: intelligent delivery on the last mile
  • Passenger transport: ideal vehicle to bolster public passenger transport

The sectors and use cases in which the segment-founding Sprinter is at home are as diverse as the best-seller itself. At the Sprinter Innovation Campus, three use cases and their special challenges served as examples representing many other sectors for which the Sprinter offers tailor-made integrated solutions.

Trades/service: New solutions beyond the vehicle itself

Efficiency is acquiring ever greater importance in this traditionally important sector, too. Companies face an ever more serious shortage of suitably qualified personnel to deal with full order books and high growth rates. The efficient deployment of resources and the digitalisation of processes are becoming important success factors. By virtue of its networking capability, the new Sprinter forms part of a system which links job data with the vehicle
and provides for efficient routing. The “Fleet Communication” service enables tradespeople to be informed about job changes and duly rerouted while on the road, for example. Customer addresses for the next job are relayed directly to the system, preventing misunderstandings in communications between vehicle coordinator and driver. For safety reasons, the Mercedes PRO connect app must not be used while the vehicle is on the move.

State-of-the-art shelving solutions provide for tidy and orderly load compartments. Driver and co-driver have a wealth of stowage facilities at their disposal which can be tailored to their everyday requirements. Cutting-edge, intelligent telematics systems which register the traffic situation practically in real time and adapt the routing dynamically offer substantial cost and time savings.

Service technicians and tradespeople use the Sprinter as a workshop and parts store on wheels. The In-Van Delivery & Return networking solution saves tradespeople valuable time which they can use for other customer orders. Parts which are no longer required are collected from the vehicle overnight by a logistics service provider without requiring any keys, and parts and tools required for the next day are placed in the vehicle.

CEP and online food retailing: vast growth market

Time pressure, crowded shops, the nerve-racking stress of finding a parking space and many other factors can quickly take all the enjoyment out of a shopping trip. To avoid such dilemmas, customers are increasingly turning to online shopping as a convenient alternative to the high street. Other reasons for growing turnover in the field of e-commerce are the easier comparability of product offerings and prices and ever shorter delivery times. The number of parcels sent worldwide highlights the exceptionally dynamic development of this sector in the recent past: while global parcel deliveries totalled around 44 billion in 2014, this figure rose by almost 48 percent in the space of two years, to 65 billion parcels (source: Pitney Bowes 2017 – Parcel Shipping Index). This trend is far from flattening out – various studies still expect
double-figure annual growth rates up to 2025. While this will boost turnover for courier, express and parcel (CEP) services, it also places them under growing pressure to improve efficiency.

Foods play an important role in this future scenario, as the volume of food ordered online is continually increasing in the core European and US markets which are of relevance to the Sprinter. An annual growth rate in the order of 14.7 percent for online food orders is forecast in Germany up to 2020, against a corresponding increase of 6.0 percent in Great Britain and 10.5 percent in France.

Transporting perishable goods poses major challenges for the industry, however. The ideal arrangement of the goods in the load compartment is a central consideration here, as different foods require different storage temperatures. Finally, the vehicle itself needs to be integrated into the logistics chain as effectively as possible. In view of the enormous cost pressures in the industry, the extensively automated logging and loading of goods will be imperative in future. In addition, the speed of delivery is becoming a key success factor in view of ever smaller time windows for delivery, as it determines a delivery company’s economic efficiency.

As an intelligent integrated system solution, the Sprinter provides an ideal basis for meeting these diverse transport challenges in an effective manner. Vehicle features such as a low load compartment sill and an electric parking brake as well as state-of-the-art assistance systems make every day work in delivery operations markedly easier and boost efficiency. In a further development stage it will be possible to operate refrigerator vans with different climate zones, while intelligent networking solutions offer greater transparency for delivery companies and the end customer. An uninterrupted cold chain throughout the entire transport process can be verified, for example. In addition, a sophisticated load compartment system will avoid the need for parcel deliverers to spend a long time searching for items in the load compartment, thereby speeding up the delivery process. Integrated and efficiency-boosting industry-specific solutions are among the most important fields of development for the near future.

Passenger transport: comfortable for passengers, efficient for operators

The passenger transport segment involves different groups, each with their own specific requirements. Operators expect a reliable vehicle with which they can address the cost pressures in public and private passenger transport. For the driver the onus is on an attractive workplace which will enable them to carry out their everyday work efficiently and with the maximum possible comfort and convenience. As the third group making up the segment, passengers wish not only to be transported from A to B, but to make the best possible use of their travel time in the greatest possible comfort. Exuding a quality feel in the cab and the rear compartment which is without parallel in its segment, the new Sprinter meets the diverse requirements and needs of fleet operators, drivers and passengers alike.

The networking services will in future give rise to totally new possibilities for digitalisation in connection with the vehicle – by means of the Via on-demand ride sharing service, for example. Mercedes-Benz Vans is working in a joint venture with Via to develop intelligent mobility solutions. A key area of focus here is the optimisation of the vehicles for use for ride-sharing purposes. The new features of the Sprinter allow a symbiosis between superb hardware and sophisticated software, so contributing to the improvement of service quality. The new Sprinter both receives and sends data. In future, the input of sensor data into the Via algorithm will provide the basis for improvements in the efficiency of vehicle routing.

The interior concept of the new Sprinter is also perfectly tailored to passengers’ needs in terms of digitalisation: USB charging facilities ensure an adequate power supply and a WiFi hotspot provides passengers with their own individual connections to the digital world.