Mastering the midis
Bus operators in all sectors need now look no further than the Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) stable … With its new midibus chassis, MBSA offers a fully comprehensive product line-up. GAVIN MYERS finds out more.
It’s been a long while since MBSA had a midibus product on offer. The brand has, however, now launched the OF 917 RF – a dedicated bus chassis for this application.
It made its first official appearance at the Southern African Bus Operators Association (Saboa) conference held in early March, and the aim, says Dirk Ansorge, head of MBSA Bus & Coach, is to offer a wider product range to customers.
“We’re not stepping back, we want our customers to come to us for all the applications in which they might need to operate,” he proclaims, adding that the chassis will be offered to the market at a very affordable price level, while, at the same time, offering Mercedes-Benz quality and value-chain offerings.
Targeting smaller group transport operations, such as schools, churches, small organisations and shuttle services, the new chassis can also cut it in a coach application. It will be available in 22- to 40-seat capacity with bodies from any of MBSA’s current partners, including Marcopolo, Busmark, MCV and Buscor.
“It’s a proper bus chassis – a bodybuilder need not do any conversions,” adds Ansorge. “We will listen to the customer, while we interact with the bodybuilders, to offer exactly what the market needs,” he continues.
The chassis comes to South Africa from the new Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) plant in Chennai, India. Ansorge points out, however, that it is manufactured to fulfil all the requirements of South African operators. (Once volumes make it viable, the chassis will eventually be brought in completely knocked down (CKD) and assembled at MBSA’s East London plant.)
A raised-floor bus chassis, it features the company’s front-mounted 126 kW (170 hp) 4D34i engine, tuned to deliver a flat torque curve for enhanced pulling power and early gear shifts. Particular attention has been paid to the engine cooling system for peak performance in all operating conditions, and an exhaust brake system comes as standard fitment.
“This coach is optimised for fuel consumption; we understand this is a very sensitive segment and that customers calculate cost per passenger,” Ansorge notes.
A six-speed manual Mercedes-Benz gearbox is fitted, as are Anti-lock Braking System-equipped drum brakes and front and rear leaf springs with shock-absorbers. The gross vehicle weight is nine tonnes.
The chassis was designed with passenger and driver comfort in mind, offering entrance step heights designed for easy entry and enough space for the driver to manage long trips.
“The new Mercedes-Benz OF 917 RF bus chassis is the perfect example of what happens when Daimler’s trusted expertise is combined with our valued customers’ inputs: the perfect product,” says Ansorge.
“We are very excited about it. It’s an exciting new segment and we look forward to bolstering our already impressive buses with the new midibus,” he concludes.