Reinvigorated and ready to roll
VDL Bus and Coach has some exciting new products, services and support systems lined up to ensure it gives its customers exactly what they need, when they need it. GAVIN MYERS reports.
VDL Bus and Coach is looking forward to the future, having renewed its relationships with established bodybuilders and launched a new aftermarket dealership network. Sharon Coopsamy, newly appointed GM, responsible for day-to-day running of the company, says there’s more in the pipeline …
“We want to be able to provide a product that’s complete,” she begins. “We’re looking at supplying more built-up buses – we want to put rubber on the road.”
This means the company’s previously ad hoc relationship with major bodybuilders, such as Marcopolo, MCV and others, is now in full swing – and the bus you see splashed out on these pages is one of the newest re-engineered models available.
Coopsamy gives us the details: “It’s based on the existing, but now upgraded, TBR 2175 4×2 chassis – which we now call the TBR 2175 PR. The six-cylinder Paccar engine has undergone some Engine Control Unit (ECU) tweaks, so it now produces 183 kW (250 hp).”
This added grunt drives through a Voith four-speed automatic gearbox, which has a built-in torque converter and retarder. A six-speed ZF manual is offered as an option. “The gearbox is mid-mounted which assists in weight distribution between the axles and allows for easy maintenance. It’s much more accessible,” Coopsamy says. “The electric system is relatively simple too; it’s easy to carry out fault-finding diagnostics and maintenance.”
The package is rounded off with a hypoid rear axle for better fuel consumption; all-round disk brakes, with the latest electronic braking system technology; and steel suspension, to cope with bad road conditions.
“It’s a South African-spec bus. With 65 seats it’s perfect for stop-start commuter applications such as on mines or scholar transport,” Coopsamy adds.
VDL has also recently refreshed its 6×2 chassis, which is aimed at the semi-luxury coach market, but can be used in commuter applications as well. In semi-luxury spec it seats 71 passengers, while commuter-spec seats 80. The tag axle is air-suspended and the Paccar engine churns out 228 kW (310 hp) in this guise.
“We’ve chosen to fit a bigger Paccar engine to handle Africa’s tough environment; it has proven to be much more robust and durable in stop-start situations. It withstands the test of time … There are VDL buses running that have already exceeded one million kilometres. In most cases, they haven’t even had major breakdowns like lost engines. Our buses can withstand African conditions,” she adds.
Despite this “made for Africa” toughness, the company’s renewed focus on after-sales support ensures it’s on the ball with the type of backup its customers demand. “Our aftersales support will be available throughout South Africa. We started our relationship with the service provider in October, 2014, and we look forward to a more streamlined and even stronger relationship with our customers as a result,” notes Coopsamy.
The company will hold parts for maintenance and be responsible for sales, with more fast-moving items held in major centres. “The parts business has picked up nicely. We’re now more competitive in terms of pricing, stock has increased substantially and we’re able to distribute more easily,” she continues.
That’s not all, though … VDL will also soon be launching a toll-free number for customers to easily access this after-sales network.
“In terms of dealerships, maintenance and aftermarket support, we have a much stronger focus and vision to move our customers forward,” Coopsamy concludes.