Last week, Mercedes had a lot to celebrate as they opened their first Sprinter van production plant in the U.S. In addition to cutting the ribbon at the $500 million factory in North Charleston, South Carolina, the company announced an order for 20,000 of the vans from Amazon. The facility will employ 900 workers when it starts production later this month.
The order makes Amazon the largest Sprinter customer. Independent contractors will use them under the e-commerce giant’s Delivery Service Partner program. The factory is an expansion of an existing facility that has been assembling vans from imported pieces, or knockdown kits, since 2006.
Mercedes is projecting a workforce of 1,300 by 2020. While that might seem like a large number for a facility dedicated to a single vehicle, the highly customizable Sprinter reportedly offers 1,700 unique combinations of body style, powertrain, and equipment. This level of customization means employees have to learn around 900 individual steps to build a specific vehicle. This complexity has led to the implementation of cutting-edge training aids like computer games and virtual reality.
This third generation of the Sprinter features the new MBUX infotainment system, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, and a 360-degree camera system. It will be available in both gasoline and diesel engine configurations, with an electric version on the way.
Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC / https://www.mbvans.com/sprinter/model/sprinter