By SEMA Editors
Mercedes-Benz will select the four most innovative and exciting project vehicles—based on the automaker’s new midsize van concept—to display in its booth at the 2014 SEMA Show. Each of the approved companies will receive a pre-production van and a budget of up to $50,000 to make vehicle modifications based on their design.
Background—Exploring the Potential for a Midsize Van in the U.S. Market
Commercial vans are used mainly by businesses and public services, with a wide-array of uses, including package/freight delivery, trade vehicles for carpenters and electricians, mobile repair workshops, emergency services, luxury transportation and even mobile pet grooming, but they have also captured the imagination of private owners, who use them not only as transportation, but also to realize their passions.
The Sprinter Van revolutionized the large van segment in the United States, bringing the tall, efficient and ergonomic European van to American customers and, incidentally, providing a vehicle template for other manufacturers that are only now bringing in their own European-style vans.
Now, Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is exploring the potential of the mid-size commercial van segment in the United States. The new midsize commercial van concept offers up to 194 cu. ft. of cargo space or seating for up to eight passengers in a versatile, compact, efficient vehicle. Many American customers have indicated strong interest in this mid-size van concept, according to MBUSA, and the OEM is consequently now evaluating the U.S. market opportunity for the commercial van, targeting mainly small and midsize businesses that transport cargo and passengers.
A Mid-Size Van at the SEMA Show
The SEMA Show, with its diverse attendees, provides a natural platform to explore the potential of the midsize van platform. A showcase of diverse van-based designs, developed and executed by tuners and upfitters across the United States, will allow attendees to experience the full scope of the van’s potential and allow them to imagine the different uses for the midsize van. The SEMA Show will also be the first time when this new midsize van concept is shown in the United States, presenting a unique opportunity to build awareness for the concept while gathering feedback on unique vehicle variations.
Project Vehicle Proposal
A midsize commercial van can provide the basis for numerous different vehicle concepts and designs that require a larger vehicle, and deliver more excitement and utility than is possible in a passenger car. To explore these possibilities, MBUSA will host a tuning and upfitting competition to develop and build the most exciting midsize van concepts. Tuners and upfitters across the United States are invited to propose showcar concepts based on the midsize van. MBUSA will select the four most exciting concepts to be realized. Each vehicle’s creators will receive a pre-production van and a budget of up to $50,000 to make vehicle modifications based on their design. All four vehicles will be displayed in the Mercedes-Benz Vans booth at the 2014 SEMA Show, and they will compete with one another for the most votes by SEMA Show attendees and Internet voters.
Each proposal should focus on one or two of the different uses for which the midsize van would be perfect—and take it to the extreme. Concept ideas include:
- Ultimate Roadtrip Van – the vehicle you’d want to take on the longest, best vacation of your life.
- Perfect Mobile Office – everything you need to be productive and comfortable on the road in one compact package.
- Definitive Tailgating and Party Van – the van that provides the right setting for a party anytime, anywhere.
- Success on Wheels – the van that lets you grow your business by taking it mobile, taking advantage of the space the midsize cargo van offers.
- Limo on Steroids – the van for group transportation with over-the-top style.
MBUSA is open to considering any concept that takes the van to the next level. Concepts that focus on commercial applications are especially welcome. A total of four concepts will be selected to be built by aftermarket companies and displayed to compete with one another at the SEMA Show. Only one project vehicle per theme will be awarded.
Following the Show, the four aftermarket companies will take possession of the vehicle for the next 12–18 months for the purposes of their approved marketing plan, but MBUSA reserves the right to schedule the vehicles for display with written notice in advance. Vans will ultimately be returned to MBUSA at the conclusion of the promotional period with all modifications intact, which become the property of MBUSA.
Aftermarket companies and upfitters that wish to apply for this opportunity must submit proposals that include the following information:
- Executive Summary – One-pager to focus on the key benefits of the proposal and prior experiences to support this new role.
- Vehicle Description – List of specific modifications and accessories to be added, including a total customer pay price, along with a color rendering.
- Examples of previous project vehicles by the applicant.
- Promotional plan – Detailed marketing/PR plan for the show vehicle over the next 12–18 months.
- Timing – Specific dates, vehicle delivery and project timing and completion date. Vehicles must be completed by October 20, 2014.
- Commitment to feature the vehicle with the Mercedes-Benz logos and nomenclature intact with visible likeness to the production vehicle.
- Feature the van with its original engine, though power-boosting accessories are acceptable.
- Commit to creating weekly progress reports during the vehicle build process, including photos.
- Allow photo/video production by MBUSA during the build process, if requested by MBUSA.
- Booth number for their exhibit space at the 2014 SEMA Show.
- All costs associated with preparing the response to this Request For Proposal shall be borne solely by the aftermarket companies/upfitters.
- Finally, this Request For Proposal does not constitute a binding agreement between the aftermarket companies/upfitters and MBUSA. It should be made clear that a project vehicle will only be awarded upon the execution of an agreement by MBUSA and the aftermarket companies/upfitters, as required by MBUSA.
All proposals must be submitted to MBUSA via email to email@example.com by July 28, 2014.
Proposal Submission: July 28, 2014
Award Recipient Notification Date: August 4, 2014
Vehicle Delivery: Mid-August
Preliminary Project Van Specifications
Length/width/height (in.): 202/76/74
Wheelbase/ground clearance (in.): 126/5.7
Payload/Towing (lbs.): 2,579/5,000
Cargo capacity (cu. ft.): 194
Cargo area length/height (in.): 92/54
Configuration: Rear-wheel drive
Engine: 4-cylinder gasoline, turbocharged, direct injection
Total Displacement: 2.0L
Horsepower: 211 @ 5,000 RPM
Net Torque: 273 lb.-ft.