Year of the Afriway

Year of the Afriway

Time flies when you’re having fun… The truth of that statement could not have been more surprising when the realisation dawned on GAVIN MYERS that it was exactly a year ago that we last spoke with Ray Karshagen, head of the bus division at Iveco South Africa Works

Much can happen in a year… Since last August, Iveco Bus has strengthened its position in the local industry and completed “phase one” of the Afriway project; having now launched both 4×2 and 6×2 configurations, both with manual and automatic transmissions.

The result is an extended reach to approximately 70 percent of the local market – and an expected boost in overall market share by the end of 2017.

“It’s now about eight months since the launch of the 6×2 and we are still running demos with operators. These units are performing well and have returned some pleasantly surprising fuel consumption figures. The penalty from the extra mass does not differ much from the 4×2. We have also received good reports from drivers,” Karshagen says.

The Afriway 6×2 has been targeted specifically at operators in the commuter market who are looking for more passenger load. With its 80 seats, the cost per passenger is lower than with the 65-seat 4×2.

Karshagen expects that once some big orders for the 6×2 (which are currently in the pipeline) have been fulfilled, a 15-percent total market share for Iveco Bus will be realised by the end of 2017. This is despite the overall market expectation to remain static. “The real impact of Afriway 6×2 will be seen in 2018,” he says.

Karshagen adds that the current trend in the commuter bus market is for big operators to subcontract to their empowerment partners, which results in the automatic-transmission models being more popular.

“It’s the right product for stop-start operations – the driver experiences less fatigue and the ride is smoother for passengers, while being a more cost-effective bus in terms of maintenance. The new technology in modern automatic transmissions removes the old barriers in terms of price and cost of operation,” Karshagen says.

In the Iveco stable, automatic models outsell the manuals by four to one. “Analysing the total market, that split is closer to 60/40. Ten years ago it was probably the other way around…” Karshagen reckons.

The vehicle is only one part of the equation that makes up a successful supplier-customer relationship. “Operators want the right partner – it’s a marriage, not a hit and run… There’s no longer such a thing as a bad product. The industry has changed and it’s now all about total cost of operation, parts pricing, servicing backup and financing packages,” says Karshagen.

In this vein, Iveco Bus has aligned with WesBank through its Iveco Capital division. According to Karshagen, this financing operation is growing daily and combines well with the repair and maintenance contracts offered through dealers.

“We give new entrants business development aid and link them with a good operating partner, depending on their area of operation. It’s a coaching and mentoring initiative. Often their entry into the market is as a subcontractor to a larger operator, so that relationship has sometimes already been established in advance.”  

So, what might we expect over the next year from Iveco Bus? Karshagen hints at the next phase of the Afriway’s development involving the possibility of a rear-engine city bus, but, in the interim, the 26-seater Daily minibus has been incorporated into the Iveco Bus portfolio.

“It’s interesting to note that many Afriway operators also have a need for a smaller vehicle,” Karshagen explains. “This vehicle was recently crowned 2017 Minibus of the Year in Europe,” he adds.

We’ll be interested to see how the brand has progressed by the time August 2018 flies around.

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