Mercedes-Benz provides the full spectrum in buses and coaches.
People Mover Par Excellence
What makes Mercedes-Benz’s bus and coach offering unique in South Africa is the fact that the company is the only OEM to offer a full spectrum of buses and coaches – from midi-buses to large luxury coaches – and powered by various fuel types: diesel, compressed natural gas (CNG) and dual-fuel systems, and not as a retro-fitment but factory fitted, says Dr Dirk Ansorge, who heads up Mercedes-Benz South Africa’s Bus and Coach division for Daimler Trucks and Buses in SA.
“To top it all, we are one of very few companies to offer a full ‘one-stop shop’ with in-house full fleet management solutions, finance and insurance, and resale options. We can supply any bus operator, be it a single-bus company or major bus and coach fleet operators. We offer every customer a tailor-made solution, be it outright purchase or lease, followed by trade-in or resale,” adds Dr Ansorge.
“We are proud of our hard-earned reputation for quality, which is backed by a full warranty. Our product and service offering covers every aspect of people transport, with our single biggest competitive advantage being that we always deliver on time.
“Our chassis are assembled locally from CKD kits in East London and our major bodybuilders work with us as a team, striving for only the best. Our supply chain operates like a well-oiled machine with benchmarked processes, communication and overall zero-defect levels of quality.
“In the City Bus segment, specifically BRT-related tenders, we have won both the Johannesburg Rea Vaya BRT contracts, the first OEM to do so, with Euro 5 vehicles, and more recently the George Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network (IRPTN) contract.
“The George project is very exciting as it will integrate the municipalities of George, George townships, Wilderness and Mossel Bay, and more locations might be added to the system in future,” explains Dr Ansorge.
The George contract entails different products – from the 12m long, low-entry city bus, and the buses for the townships, which are 10,5m long, low-entry midi-buses; and feeder buses, which are Mercedes-Benz Sprinters with 18 seats or less in case of wheelchairs versions.
Mini-buses provide the last ‘link’ in the transport chain. “We’ll be delivering the last of the 64 units of the project (excluding the mini-buses) in the coming five months. Service and maintenance will be done by our dealer in George, Stanmar Motors.
“Most of the city transport contracts, whether public transport or private fleets, are certainly going for the ‘greener’ option with increasing requests for vehicles running on alternative fuels – a requirement which we are in the best position to support with our vehicles,” says Dr Ansorge.
“The coach business is flourishing and showing good growth as the tourism demand in Southern Africa has picked up considerably ever since the exchange rate for tourists made this region a favoured destination.
The uptick has been evident since 2013 and augers well for coach sales. This sector is stabilising now after the huge 2010 FIFA World Cup surge and the subsequent drop thereafter.” One of Mercedes-Benz’s customers, Hylton Ross, recently took delivery of a number of luxury coaches. “All our coaches are normally quite high-end in customer specification, with the latest in technology and comfort requested.
Our coaches are also turning in good costefficiencies, especially since the introduction of a supercomfortable chassis fitted with our latest automatic gearbox. Recently we have taken orders for top-of-the-line coaches – bodied with either the Irizar i6 or the Marcopolo G7, which are both new coach bodies,” continues Dr Ansorge.
The commuter bus segment, which accounts for 80-85% of the total bus market, has been subdued, but with growth nonetheless as upkeep and cost-of-ownership are forcing operators to reconsider their replacement cycles and bring these back to optimum timing. “Mercedes-Benz has enjoyed its fair share of this segment, such as buses for school and staff transport.
This tendency we like to ascribe to the fact that we offer so much more than just a vehicle. Our value chain with finance and insurance solutions, Fleetboard, CharterWay and TruckStore, together with a solid dealer network, has given us a distinct advantage in the bus and coach market,” concludes Dr Ansorge.