Mercedes-Benz buses back SABOA all the way
The Southern African Bus Operators’ Association (SABOA) held its 2013 national conference and exhibition at the CSIR conference centre in Pretoria, on February 28. We speak to Dirk Ansorge, brand manager, Mercedes-Benz Bus and Coach, about the important role of SABOA. CLAIRE RENCKEN reports.
As Ansorge says, in the bigger picture of the overall commercial vehicle market in South Africa, the bus market has only a small share of below five percent. But the “goods” that buses and coaches transport every day, on the roads countrywide, are the most valuable. We are talking about people – our families and friends.
“Therefore, it’s important to have a strong association, which takes care of the needs of bus operators and contributes to their ability to sustain their businesses,” Ansorge contends. “This includes predicable and regular bus contracts which enable operators to become more profitable. These contracts would also support bus operators in adhering to defined safety standards, which in the end makes for a good customer experience for everyone involved. Only the direct effort of a strong association can lead to more efficient transportation of people.”
Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA), is very pleased to see that SABOA takes its responsibility very seriously. SABOA ensures that bus operators and the bus manufacturing industry come together on a regular basis to discuss technical and regulatory matters. Even though the bus operation sector comprises a diverse grouping, it is essential for everyone to work together to find practical solutions which have a positive impact on operations.
Ansorge continues: “MBSA has actively supported SABOA in the past and will continue to work with the association in the future, as we see that its work has an important impact on the bus business. We are also able to learn about the bus operation business from SABOA. And of course the SABOA meetings and events are always a good place to foster relationships.”
In answer to the question as to why MBSA decided to be a sponsor of the SABOA conference and exhibition, Ansorge explains: “MBSA believes in the power of partnerships to shape a common and successful future. We practise this throughout our business in many ways, and the sponsorship of the SABOA conference is one such platform that effectively focuses on solutions to challenges through a partnership approach.”
He adds: “The conference also offers great opportunities for bus and coach operators, as well as manufacturers, to get the latest information about new trends in the market, new products and additional services, in a short and focused space of time. The quality of discussion you can have is also on a high level. Therefore, it’s a must.”
So what did MBSA want to achieve at this year’s national conference and exhibition? “It provided an ideal and captive marketing platform for MBSA’s bus division. But more than this, we were able to build new relationships and display our latest products and our Euro-5 expertise,” he reveals.
At the exhibition, MBSA displayed its new city bus chassis O 500 M 1826 with Euro-5 technology. This chassis is equipped with an improved and efficient powertrain: engine OM 926 LA with 188 kW. The vehicles also sport fully automatic gearboxes, which are available from Voith and ZF.
Ansorge explains: “In the past, it was not possible to reduce nitrous oxide and particulate emissions without increasing fuel consumption. BlueTec, the SCR technology from Mercedes-Benz, solves this problem through further developed engines with improved performance, low particulate emissions and low consumption data. The resulting increased occurrence in nitrous oxides (NOx), in particular nitrogen dioxide (NO2), is converted by means of Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR). Mercedes-Benz has chosen SCR technology in order to provide its customers with a safe and economical solution.”
In addition, MBSA also displayed a front engine 4×2 commuter bus with chassis OF 1730 with Euro-3 technology. The bus is equipped with the very economical OM 906 engine from Mercedes-Benz with 255 kW (300 hp) and is powerful enough for operation in hilly areas. For operators that need a bus to fulfil the daily requirements in suburbs and rural areas, MBSA can offer the chassis OH 1726 with 191 kW (256 hp).
Looking ahead, to emerging trends in the South African bus and coach industry, Ansorge notes: “As a leader in sustainable mobility solutions, and one of the foremost innovators in the world when it comes to green technology, we are quite excited about the trend in cities toward Euro-5 – and therefore more environmentally friendly buses. In some areas 50 ppm (parts per million) fuel is still not available, but cities should be able to find local solutions.”
What else does the future hold for the South African bus and coach industry? Ansorge says: “Plans are underway by new bus manufacturers (e.g. from Asia) to become a part of the South African bus sector. This will increase the competition between the suppliers, and will give customers the opportunity to choose from a wider product range. But at the same time, as the market becomes more predictable, it will become a strategic part of the business of bus operators to form close partnerships and alliances, if they want to survive in the long run.”
He concludes: “They will have to focus on their core competence, which is managing the bus business. Therefore services like finance, maintenance contracts, trade-ins and fleet management will become more and more important. The bus operators will need the right bus suppliers as partners they can trust and create a successful future with. This will be a challenge and an opportunity for the market at the same time.”