NEW YORK – Sprinter commercial van sales have continued to accelerate in the U.S. since Mercedes-Benz took over the exclusive distribution of the diesel-powered vehicles, says Claus Tritt, general manager-commercial vehicles.

The Sprinter is being distributed by 108 of Mercedes' 353 dealers and 58 Freightliner truck outlets.

The van formerly was badged as a Dodge and sold by Chrysler before its tie-up with Fiat.

“The sales network is growing every day,” a spokesman says. There were about 8,600 Sprinters sold in 2010, Tritt tells Ward’s.

“Our goal is to more than double sales this year. We're well on our way to doing that.”

Ward’s data shows Sprinter U.S. deliveries through May totaled 5,185 units, a 102.1% gain on year-ago.

Competitors include the Ford Econoline and Chevrolet Express.

Tritt says there are 24 option packages available to Sprinter buyers, as well as 200 single options.

Sales of passenger-van versions are starting to take off as shuttle services embrace the product, which is based at $39,000.

Mercedes-parent Daimler sells the smaller Viano and Vito vans in Europe. But Tritt says there are no immediate plans to bring either of those models to the U.S. in order to enlarge the Mercedes van portfolio.

“Our job is to be profitable, so we're evaluating every avenue (to expand),” he says.

“When it's going to happen I don't know, but there's always an opportunity to enlarge a franchise.”

Daimler’s 2010 deal with Renault will see the French auto maker provide Mercedes in Europe with a version of its Kangoo delivery van in 2012.

The emphasis on fuel economy in the U.S. eventually could translate into an opportunity to bring the smaller vans, Tritt adds. “It's something to explore.”