Say no more about vans if you’ve not yet ridden in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, built by Daimler in Germany but refurbished by The Van in Korea.
Measuring nearly 3 meters tall and close to 2 meters wide, the Sprinter is a sophisticated box of gleaming steel on the outside, while it’s interior is all about customization.
Satisfying the tastes of an upscale clientele is the specialty of The Van, the only authorized body maker for Sprinter vans in Korea. From DVD players and 40-inch televisions to air cleaners and wine coolers, nothing seems to be impossible.
“Customer satisfaction and after services are at the core of my business philosophy,” said The Van chief executive Choi Young-moon in an interview with The Korea Herald. “As long as it’s in Daimler’s books and as long as it’s legal,” Choi added, saying he has now found a way to fit the vans with beds after the latest request of a client.
|The Van chief executive Choi Young-moon (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)|
For the former car mechanic and engineer, it was never really about money.
“I know that sounds phony, but for me, it’s more about making this dream fly and giving people a chance to see what a great car the Sprinter is,” he said.
Unlike its other gas-guzzling rivals that go up to over 5,000 cc, the Sprinter is a 3,000 cc diesel that promises fuel efficiency of up to 9 kilometers per liter. It’s also cited as one of the few vans to deploy air suspension. Horse power is at 190 hp. The vehicle comes in arctic white, carbon black metallic, deep black or metallic silver.
Since March, when the company first opened here in Seochodong, The Van has sold a total of 18 vehicles, each starting at about 180 million won a piece. Globally, Daimler sells up to 160,000 units a year.
While 180 million is not nearly enough to even begin covering his expenses, Choi says everything becomes worthwhile when he sees the satisfaction spread on his customers’ faces.
Choi also boasted he had not received a single complaint, despite most of his clients being CEOs and members of conglomerate owner families.
“I can’t name any names, but you’ll know them when I do,” he said, explaining that this was why most of the refurnishing involved creating a portable office for these busy business people who are always on the move.
Choi’s secret to his immaculate reputation is ABS resin, which he calls a “dream material.”
“It’s much better than wood, and it’s great for creating curves and getting the look that’s really desired,” he said.
Choi has added an indigenous touch to the specs the clients can choose from by developing a “magic glass” partition between the driver and the back seats. It changes colors and opens and closes with a remote. Voices can be heard but are inaudible ― a quality that was mindful of the privacy that The Van’s corporate clients crave.
The CEO’s short-term goal is to sell at least five vans a month. In the longer term, he hopes to make the Sprinter van more commercial and more affordable. I think we can bring the prices down by at least 40 percent. I also want to sell more as corporate minivans,” Choi said.
Sprinter’s height is going to be a bit tricky since apartments are the most common form of residence for Koreans, but the CEO is determined to find a niche.
By Kim Ji-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org