Moving in the Right Direction
While the global bus market is slowing down, it hasn’t come to a complete standstill. Projects like that of Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority’s (RTA) are going ahead, and many companies are benefiting.
The acquisition process of the RTA’s fleet restructuring programme kicked off in April 2007 with orders for 395 new Neoplan Centroliner buses placed with the MAN Nutzfahrzeuge group. This included a batch of 170 unique 4.52-m high, 13.7-m long N4528 double-deckers. Next VDL Bus & Coach of Eindhoven received an order for 518 Citea CLF 120-310 rigid 12 m singledeck units with full-length low floors and triple passenger-operated access doors.
The latest news is that Daimler Buses has also joined the list of manufacturers supplying vehicles to the RTA. Daimler’s contribution will be 260 33-seater Mercedes-Benz Citaro 12 m, three-door single-deckers. Like the other vehicles ordered for operation in Dubai, these Euro 5-compliant units will have special features tailored to Dubai’s climate, items such as extra heat insulation in the floors and wheel housings, special window glass, and air showers in the entrance apertures to stabilise interior temperatures.
Globally, Daimler Buses enjoyed its best ever sales result in 2008, selling a total of 40 600 Mercedes-Benz, Setra and Orion buses, bus chassis and coaches. With a volume improvement of 4% over the previous record set in 2007, Daimler retained leadership of the world’s bus market in 2008 with its 15% penetration. Considerable success has been achieved with the marketing of Orion VII Hybrid buses in North America, and Daimler expects to maintain its leading role in a smaller 2009 global bus market.
CHINESE BUS MARKET
Bus sales statistics for the domestic Chinese market are categorised according to vehicle length: light buses measure between 3.5 and 7 m in overall length, medium buses between 7 and 10 m, while large buses slot in above the 10 m benchmark.
Distinctions are also drawn between fully built buses which emerge complete from one factory, and chassis where a self-supporting ladderframe, complete with driveline units, is completed by a specialist bodybuilder to a customer’s specifications.
Somewhat surprisingly, the total market for buses in China contracted in absolute terms in 2008 compared to a year earlier, although the margin of year-on-year decline was only 2.5%. Total sales came in at 340 593 units, light buses accounting for 64% of the total, medium buses 23% and large buses making up the balance at 13%. The overall year-on-year volume decline was entirely due to a reduced level of light bus sales, while the medium units remained steady, and large buses and coaches returned healthy growth margins. This latter trend was underpinned by demand for bus rapid transit (BRT) units, coaches to service the Beijing Olympics, and expanded inter-city and commuter services. Overall, the market moved strongly in favour of fully built buses, even though chassis-based units saw reduced sales (in absolute terms) of 14% year on year.
In the declining – but still numerically dominant – segment of light fully built buses and coaches, Shenyang Jinbei led with a penetration of 35.6%, followed by Jiangling Motors at 15.5% and Nanjing Auto Group with 14%. The medium fully built segment was led by Kinglong United (Suzhou) with 24.3%, Zhengzhou Yutong at 20.8% and FAW Toyota with 11.1% penetration. The large fully built category was dominated by Zhengzhou Yutong at 30.8%, well ahead of Dandong Huanghai with 11.6% and Xiamen Golden Dragon with 9.4%.