The process of assembling DaimlerChrysler’s imported Dodge Sprinter Class B motorhome chassis will be moved from Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp.’s Gaffney, S.C., factory to another DaimlerChrysler plant in Charleston, S.C.
“That will happen later this year,” said Randy Jones, DaimlerChrysler’s communication manager for commercial vehicles.
Not associated with the production move, Jones said DaimlerChrysler likely will make an announcement later this year about when the next generation Sprinter will be available in the U.S. and Canada and what specifications will be offered.
Automotive trade publications have reported that the new Sprinter will be introduced to the U.S. next year and feature a heftier diesel engine and lengths other than the 22 feet currently available.
With the exception of Airstream’s Dodge Sprinter Westfalia, Sprinter vans, for tax reasons, are built in Germany, disassembled, shipped as a kit to the U.S., and then reassembled.
The transfer of production from Gaffney to a former fire truck plant in Charleston will occur at about the same time that some 50 Freightliner dealers nationwide will phase out sales of Sprinter commercial vans.
The Sprinter, a workhorse for more than a decade in Europe and the Middle East, has become a popular platform for RV manufacturers after the chassis was introduced in North America in 2000.
Initially branded with both Dodge and Freightliner nameplates, Dodge dealerships will be the only authorized sellers when local Freightliner franchise agreements expire.
“This is the last year for the Freightliner Sprinter,” Jones said.
About 300 Dodge dealers nationwide sell Sprinter vans and a few handle stripped-down van chassis used by the RV industry to build Class B motorhomes.
For 2005 as many as eight North American manufacturers built van campers on the Sprinter chassis. And last year Winnebago Inc., Forest City, Iowa, and Gulf Stream Coach Inc., Nappanee, Ind., introduced Sprinter-based Class C motorhomes.
Almost since it introduction, DaimlerChrysler has limited the numbers of chassis – also popular among such companies such as FedX and UPS – distributed to RV manufacturers.
“The Sprinter is selling well around the U.S,” said Jaimie Cohen, senior manager for dealer commercial sales. “We have a nice situation for us – more demand than production capacity. Overall, everyone in the U.S. is having issues about getting what we need for this market. Our dealers could use more and our customers could use more.
“Our factories in Germany are facing those issues.”
DaimlerChrysler also has stringent rules on modifications made to Sprinters by RV manufacturers so they retain their warranties.
Last year, about 20,000 Sprinter chassis were imported to the U.S., but Cohen could not say how many of those units went to RV manufacturers.