By: Fabian Cotter

GLOBAL SUPPLY of Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-based minibuses reached an epic milestone for the model this month – 25,000 units delivered – Daimler has announced, at a time a platform upgrade starts that arguably maximises it for current on-demand and last-mile applications.

Mercedes-Benz has 25,000 reasons to celebrate its Sprinter-based minibuses.

MB 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, Daimler states.

On July 5, 2018, southern Italy public transport company Busitalia Campania – as part of a major order encompassing 30 minibuses of this type - received the special 25,000th minibus, a Sprinter City 65 K.

Busitalia itself has in recent years already purchased several hundred full-size buses and minibuses from Mercedes-Benz, the company says.

The milestone vehicle features two-tone paintwork in Signal Grey and Ultramarine Blue. Ultimately, as many as 30 passengers can be accommodated in the 120kW, fully-air-conditioned bus just 7.0 metres in length, it’s claimed.

The delivery comes at a time the massive German automotive marque announces its forthcoming minibus update, based on the latest Sprinter van, will be completed by European autumn 2019.

This range will encompass the Sprinter City, Sprinter Transfer, Sprinter Mobility and Sprinter Travel.

Hallmarking the new series will be a range of improvements, most notably to the floorpan and rear-axle capability of the all-new Sprinter City 75.

At 8.5 metres long, this regular-service bus has seats for up to 38 passengers and features a unique frame structure, states Daimler.

"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," it’s stated.

"Just as important is the heavy-duty rear axle, developed and manufactured exclusively for the Mercedes-Benz minibuses.

"Its greater load-carrying capacity of 5.0t provides the basis for a permissible gross vehicle weight of 6.8t," it added.

Alongside the new Sprinter City 75 is the somewhat more compact Sprinter City 45.

The versatile Sprinter Transfer starts the comprehensive line-up. Its four models range from the 5.9m-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 3.5t. The Sprinter Mobility 45 deserves particular attention: a new raised floor has been added over the wheel arches, says Daimler. This allows two wheelchairs to stand alongside each other at the level of the rear axle, the company states.

The model roll-out of the new minibuses will be staggered and will reflect the availability of the Sprinter; 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 the 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, the company states.

 Video Review: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Transfer 316
Video Review: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Transfer 316


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, it’s stated.

Full acquisition of the business and the establishment of Mercedes-Benz Minibus GmbH, based in Dortmund, followed in 2004.

Minibus production in Dortmund had gradually been ramped up since 2000 and has now been completely concentrated on the plant there for the past 10 years.

Extended several times in the intervening years, the plant now employs around 260 people, producing between 1200 and 1600 vehicles per year on three body-shell lines and four assembly lines. This makes Mercedes-Benz the European market leader for minibuses over 3.5t gross vehicle weight rating, it’s claimed.

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