Vans havenâ€™t always been objects of desire. When Fiat launched its Multipla model in the late 1990s, supporters of the soccer team Juventus â€” many of whom worked for the Italian carmaker â€” were subjected to stadium banners calling them as unpleasant-looking as the van they built.
While Mercedes-Benzâ€™s passenger car division likes to trumpet its popularity among royalty and world leaders, its vans division has long been more of the people. Itâ€™s had a longstanding cooperation with mass manufacturer Renault.
Thatâ€™s all about to change. Mercedes wants to spruce up its van lineup for when its new platform for light commercial electric vehicles launches in 2026. In addition to not spewing tailpipe emissions, the new models are likely to feature interior materials more commonly found in plush vehicles like the flagship S-Class sedan and G-Wagon SUV. New editions of the V-Class touring van point to a future with kitchenettes and the kind of wooden flooring seen on yachts anchored on the French Riviera.
This is all part of Chief Executive Officer Ola KÃ¤lleniusâ€™s plan to boost profitability by pushing the automakerâ€™s products further upmarket. That move is needed to fund Mercedesâ€™s multibillion-euro push to catch up with EV market leaders like Tesla and Chinaâ€™s BYD. The company is expecting its vans division to contribute double-digit margins through 2030.
Mercedes is betting that a pandemic trend of spending more time in the great outdoors is here to stay. Sales of outdoor goods surged during the pandemic as consumers engaged in physically distanced outdoor activities. But there are signs that may have been a flash in the pan, according to a study from McKinsey. The consultancy expects high inflation, rising interest rates and sinking consumer confidence to weigh on sales of recreational vehicles.
Mercedes also wonâ€™t have the market for outdoorsy EVs completely to itself. Volkswagen in 2022 launched the ID. Buzz, a modern take on its classic 1960s camper van.
While itâ€™s probably safe to rule out Porsche ever planning a van, itâ€™ll happily sell star-gazers $5,000 branded tents that owners of $100,000-plus Taycan Cross Turismo EVs can stick on the roof.
To appeal to well-healed younger customers in China and the US â€” the main target markets for these products â€” Mercedes will eventually pack its vans with high-tech features off its proprietary MB.OS operating system, allowing them to stream movies and video games on the dashboard.
Mercedes to launch high-end electric camper vans
Mercedes-Benz AG will launch a new line of high-end electric camper vans, the latest move in the German automakerâ€™s bid to boost profit by shifting further upmarket. The company will add the new battery-powered mid-size and large camper vans to its line-up once its new platform for light commercial EVs starts output in 2026, it said.
The vehicles will tap the market for comfortable outdoorsy life that grew during the pandemic.
The division will also target the upper market segment for commercial customers, the company said.
Mercedes is trying to bolster margins to help fund a costly shift to electric cars. For its passenger car division, this involves focussing resources on top-end vehicles including the Maybach limousines, AMG performance cars and G-Wagon offroader, while shifting away from less profitable entry-level models like the compact A-Class. The automaker is now extending the strategy to target a growing market for luxury private vans, particularly in China and the US. For commercial customers, Mercedes will expand services such as mobile repair teams.