Finding the path with Marcopolo
As one of South Africa’s biggest bus body manufacturers, Marcopolo has a hard-won reputation for excellence. STUART MOIR takes a peek inside the company’s latest offering, the new Paradiso.
Pathfinder – a new player in long-distance luxury coach transport – will soon add two Paradiso 1800 double deckers to its fleet. The ultimate in luxury coaches, according to Reinold Dames, Marcopolo sales executive, the Paradiso undoubtedly raises the bar across the coach manufacturing sector.
“We played an important role in helping to set up Pathfinder as a business,” says Dames. “Not only did we help them to come up with the company name and slogan, ‘leading in luxury’; we made sure their vehicles would definitely deliver according to Pathfinder’s promise to its customers,” he adds.
At just 26 years of age, Pathfinder’s owner, Moses Mokone, already operates a top-notch fleet of ten coaches. The two new Paradisos are his company’s first upgrade. “The Paradiso is the most upmarket luxury coach in Southern Africa,” Dames says, proudly. “And it’s also one of the few offering satellite digital satellite television (DSTV) tracking, which means passengers can tune into DSTV anywhere and watch all those soccer matches they would miss on any other coach or bus.”
Marcopolo installed four small DSTV monitors with flip-down screens in each of the Paradiso’s downstairs areas, while upstairs there are four fixed flat screens. This is just one of numerous features in the Marcopolo Paradiso designed to guarantee passengers optimal travelling pleasure and comfort – in keeping with the Pathfinder slogan, “leading in luxury”. “The two new Paradisos complete Pathfinder’s fleet, and are destined to operate between Harare and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and Johannesburg in South Africa,” Dames explains.
The Pathfinder deal will bring Marcopolo’s Paradiso model under the spotlight, particularly across Africa, as these coaches are ear-marked for cross-border transport. According to Dames, Marcopolo is concentrating on extending its African footprint significantly, with this deal the first of many if the strategy goes according to plan.
Powered by a Scania engine and chassis, the coach manufacturer’s flagship model offers a range of innovative features. These include four exhaust fans and 14 bonded windows which – hinged at the top and designed to swing upwards – force air to circulate throughout the coach should the driver choose not to use the air-conditioner due to weather conditions or in order to maximise fuel economy. Fitted flush with the Paradiso’s streamlined exterior, these emergency windows have also been designed in a way that doesn’t compromise the vehicle’s security.
Each Pathfinder Paradiso has a seating capacity of 66. “Downstairs is known as ‘Cloud Nine’, offering 16 leather sleeper seats,” says Dames. “Upstairs are 50 upmarket super-soft leather seats.” Together with a tea and coffee facility on each deck, microwave ovens and a fridge, on-board toilet facilities – and, of course, DSTV – the Paradiso’s state-of-the-art, spacious interior definitely has the aesthetic appeal so important to operators and their passengers in the luxury coach market. “We always think to ourselves, ‘what can we offer our customers to give them that little bit extra,’ be it comfort or performance?” Dames maintains. “Marcopolo continues to offer the most complete and diversified line-up of luxury coaches, urban buses, inter-city buses and micro-buses available – each designed to meet specific client requirements.”
Yet, according to Dames, a vehicle is only as good as its drivers. So, in keeping with Marcopolo’s ongoing commitment to passenger safety, the manufacturer is also providing Pathfinder drivers with the necessary training. “We will either deploy someone for on-site training, or drivers from Zimbabwe will join our professional in-house programme here. This is in line with our up-skilling policy,” Dames concludes. Already well along the road to success, Marcopolo’s partnership with Pathfinder deserves to go from strength to strength.