The venerable company Mercedes will in the future cooperation with the US start-up Rivian on electric vans. A letter of intent on strategic cooperation has now been signed.
A joint venture between Mercedes and Rivian is to build and operate a new plant in Central/Eastern Europe. An existing Mercedes location is to be used for this. It has not yet been decided which location that will be. But in just a few years, large electric vans from Mercedes and Rivian should roll off the assembly line there.
The cooperation should increase synergies and reduce costs. To this end, vehicles are to be manufactured on joint production lines. However, the vans from the two manufacturers differ significantly from one another: the large Mercedes van will be based on the new VAN.EA platform from 2025, but that of Rivian will be based on the “Rivian Light Van” platform (RLV).
As an example of cost savings through the Rivian cooperation, Mercedes Transporter boss Mathias Geisen named a joint paint shop. Geisen is quoted as saying in an article in the FAZ that this is particularly expensive for large vehicles.
With the switch to battery-electric vehicles, the variable costs increased significantly due to new components, according to Mercedes on the general business situation for vans. In addition, “this situation is getting worse due to more and more new providers entering our segments,” says Geisen. To remain competitive, they are now adding a new plant in Central/Eastern Europe (with presumably lower wages) and cooperating with Rivian.
But the van division of Mercedes is also committed to its two German plants. The panel van versions of the Sprinter and eSprinter are currently being built in the largest factory, the Düsseldorf plant. The new generation of eSprinter will soon be launched there. Later, the VAN.EA transporters with an open body will be created in Düsseldorf, i.e. the platform for body manufacturers and the platform trucks. Investments of around 400 million euros are planned for this purpose.
The open versions of the current Sprinter are currently being produced at the Ludwigsfelde plant. The corresponding models of the new generation of the eSprinter will follow soon. Mercedes also has a van plant in Charleston (South Carolina), where the new eSprinter will soon be built. The new plant in Central/Eastern Europe, which is operated together with Rivian, is now apparently the fourth factory to be added.
With the eVito and the eSprinter as well as the EQV passenger shuttle, Mercedes currently offers medium-sized and large electric vans; Small models will soon be added with the eCitan and the electric version of the T-Class.
A new generation of the eSprinter is also planned. It should offer more choices with three different batteries and several body versions. The model also wants to open up new markets such as the USA and Canada. Production is scheduled to start successively in the Charleston, Düsseldorf, and Ludwigsfelde plants from the second half of 2023. From as early as 2025, however, all newly launched medium-sized and large Mercedes vans will be based on the new VAN.EA platform.