Dutch courage

Dutch courage

VDL Bus & Coach showcased its mettle at this year’s Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS). FOCUS takes a look at what it has to offer

Besides being one of the largest bus and coach builders in Europe, VDL Bus & Coach also has thousands of buses operating in Africa. Part of the VDL Groep, VDL Bus & Coach’s head office is situated in Eindhoven in the Netherlands and focuses on the production of semi-manufactured buses and coaches.

Founded in 1953, this family-owned group has grown over the past 60 years and now includes 81 operating companies spanning 18 countries. VDL Bus & Coach employs approximately 8 800 people.

According to Sam Mansingh, managing director of VDL in South Africa, there are currently about 1 000 VDL buses operating in Ghana, as well 300 in Malawi. He also states that since being introduced to the continent the collective distance travelled by its buses in Africa adds up to well over a million kilometres.

Mansingh states that there are also more than 1 000 VDL buses operating in Zimbabwe. “Some of our buses have been operating there for the last 30 years,” he says. “Keeping the operator’s total cost
of ownership as low as possible is one of our main concerns. We do this by producing buses that will last in these conditions.”

Considering the lack of infrastructure and the rural nature of many of the routes that VDL buses must travel throughout Africa, the fact that so many of these buses are still going strong attests to their quality.

VDL specialises in building sturdy chassis with front-mounted engines and had one such candy-apple red chassis displayed at its JIMS stand this year, standing alongside another VDL chassis that had already been fitted with a coach body.

In terms of its production of buses and coaches in Africa, VDL can tap into three decades of experience. “In Africa, we focus on buses for rural areas,” says Jan-Cees Santema, director of VDL South Africa in the Netherlands. “Often our buses face challenging off-road conditions.”

VDL’s buses currently operate on sturdy Euro-3 engines. To make sure that they keep on offering quality transport for commuters throughout Africa, they are also backed up with extensive maintenance and after-sales services though an expansive network. VDL also delivers spare parts and other bus-related products to any location requested by operators.

Another advantage that VDL Bus & Coach has is that the company is not attached to any one particular body builder, which provides extra flexibility when it comes to the production of its buses for various markets worldwide.

With its stand at JIMS and its success over the last few decades, it is clear that VDL has established itself as one of the major bus competitors in southern Africa.

VDL goes Mini

In related news, VDL’s sister company, VDL Nedcar, recently announced that it will begin producing Minis for BMW during the second half of 2014. Interestingly, according to BMW, this is the second time that this iconic vehicle will be manufactured in the Netherlands. More than 4 000 Minis were built there from 1959 to 1966.

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