In an effort to provide aftermarket service to end-users of its Sprinter-based Class B motorhomes and cargo vans, Mercedes-Benz USA LLC has introduced VanCare, a program that provides preventive maintenance and minor repairs through a growing fleet of mobile technicians.
Josh Harrison, the key account manager for after-sales business development at Mercedes-Benz USA (MB USA), told RVBUSINESS.com the company is “extremely excited” to be launching the VanCare program, which will complement service work performed at Mercedes automotive dealerships as well as at Freightliner centers, both divisions of Daimler Trucks North America LLC.
“One of the biggest challenges we face in our dealer network right now is capacity. There’s just not enough bays in Mercedes-Benz dealerships, and not always the dedicated services at Freightliner dealers for the smaller units, so now we have something that will go to the people,” Harrison said. “Especially with our RV customers, this gives us the ability to do preventive maintenance and light repair where they are, as opposed to interrupting their travel plans and having them come into a dealership.”
As a brand, VanCare eventually will be available in key markets across North America and accessed through the company’s 300-some dealer network. The initial rollout includes six specially outfitted Sprinter vans, with plans to add about a dozen more over the course of the year.
“The intention is to have at least one of these in every one of those markets by 2020. But for right now we’re starting with strategic markets, especially where RV customers are – Southwest, California, upper Midwest, Montana, Wyoming – areas like that, and then of course, Florida,” Harrison mentioned.
Each VanCare unit is outfitted with multiple oil tanks as well as a compressor, generator, and everything that a technician would need to perform preventive maintenance or a routine service or light repair, such as brake jobs. Other equipment will include a scan tool to read a “Check Engine Light” code. Additionally, Harrison said, the service techs could put the customer’s unit through a regenerative cycle for the diesel particulate filter, among other things.
While all end-users can schedule a VanCare mobile service appointment through their dealership, Harrison said RV customers pose a unique opportunity. Savvy RV parks could partner with their local VanCare provider and schedule routine visits on a weekly basis.
“It would be even more convenient for a customer, and it could be coordinated through the management of the RV park. And if you think of it with owners’ rallies and things like that, to be able to come in and take care of 60 to 100 customers over the course of the week, we think it’s a game changer,” Harrison said.
The VanCare program is another example of Sprinter’s commitment to customer service, Harrison added, and will only add to the brand’s popularity.
“There’s equity in that star on the front,” he said, referring to the Mercedes-Benz emblem, “and we want to deliver that same customer experience because, oftentimes, quite frankly these same customers that are buying the coaches are already passenger car customers. They have an expectation of what the service level will be, and achieving that more consistently across our network is what the VanCare brand is attempting to do.”
Likewise, Royer Allman, MB USA’s strategic account manager primarily focused on the RV industry, said the VanCare program is a significant addition to the Sprinter brand – which is experiencing tremendous growth as of late.
“We see a lot of not only the large Class A owners coming down to our size, but also the newer, younger-aged Millennials also forgoing maybe buying an apartment or buying a house, and renting an apartment and actually wanting to travel and be free in a smaller coach, such as ours,” Allman told RVBUSINESS.com.
Allman said they expect to match last year’s figure and build more than 10,000 Sprinter units in 2018. He mentioned a new production facility in Charleston, S.C., will come online toward the end of the year, which will have an annual capacity of building 40,000 Sprinter commercial and RV vans.