How Chrysler’s Nimble Cargo Van Sprints Its Way to the Top
Tudor Hampton/ENR
Clients keep spending shots, but Salcedo ran out of wall space.

Speciality contractors in the Midwest may know of Walter Salcedo, who claims to sell 700 Dodge Sprinter vans a year while most dealers average 270. Those who don’t know him will probably see his work eventually, as the Europe-inspired cargo van gains more edge in the U.S.

Salcedo works for Sherman Dodge in Skokie, Ill., where we tested the BLUETEC Ram. He is a fast talker, but not for lack of a good product. A testament to the throngs of contractors using Sprinter vans is Salcedo’s office wall, where dozens of photos of clients’ vehicles hang. “It started out as one picture,” he says. “The boss says, ‘What a great idea!’” Now, Salcedo has to turn away donors because he ran out of space.

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Part of Sprinter’s advantage over other vans, he says, is an economical, V-6 engine packed with electronic controls that monitor efficiency and safety. Users can stand up in the back, and the rear doors open a wide 270 degrees. Dodge just set pricing for next year’s base Sprinter at $36,105. A stripped chassis starts at $33,900.

Mercedes designed the Sprinter. In the U.S., it is branded by Dodge of Chrysler LLC, now under private-equity ownership. The nimble van gets well over 20 miles per gallon and carries a maximum 600 cu ft of goods inside.

Since its U.S. introduction in 2003, Sprinter has rocketed to the top of the full-size van segment, with 21,961 units sold last year. It now is Dodge’s flagship construction vehicle, especially in cities, as the brand pushes what it calls an “onslaught” of the work-truck market. If it can keep making commercial hits like Sprinter, Dodge could rise to pacesetter status.