EXCLUSIVE: Deliveries hit record level in 2009

By: Graham Gardiner

Australian bus and coach deliveries rose by more than 30 percent in 2009, despite an 8.38 percent dip in December,

Australian bus and coach deliveries rose by more than 30 percent in 2009, despite an 8.38 percent dip in December, on the back of record patronage growth and historically high levels of investment in infrastructure and services across the country.

Data collected and published exclusively by ABC shows 1,839 buses and coaches were delivered in the 12 months to December 31 – including 153 units in the last month of the year, up from 1,406 in calendar 2008.

Deliveries – by state
New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria accounted for a little more than 80 percent of deliveries in 2009, as public and private sector operators invested heavy in their fleets to meet increased patronage fuelled by a combination of massive government investment in services, rising fuel prices and other financial pressures.

The state-owned STA expanded its fleet by 174 buses, just ahead of private operator CDC, which added 162 vehicles to its fleet.

Following the Bligh Government’s multi-billion dollar investment in public transport, Queensland operators took delivery of 461 new vehicles — 25 percent of the national total.

Brisbane City Council welcomed 114 new buses to its fleet, while private operators contracted to the Translink network also significantly expanded their fleets, led by Transit Australia Group’s Surfside and Sunbus operations (65), Veolia (48 new buses nationally), the Pulitano clan’s Bus Queensland (20), Brisbane Bus Lines (10), Buslink (9) and Hornibook Buslines (8).

In Victoria private operators spent up big on upgrading their fleets to satisfy record patronage, taking delivery of 316 new vehicles — 17.2 percent of the national total.

The family-owned Ventura added 50 buses to its fleet, while the Lucas family’s Warnambool Bus Lines invested in 14 new passenger carriers, the Dysons added 13 new units and the Grendas welcomed 17 new vehicles to their national fleet.

Public transit authorities in South Australia (SA) and Western Australia also invested heavily in fleet upgrades, with SA’s PTD adding 82 new vehicles (out of a total of 109 for the state) and the west’s Transperth expanded its fleet by 73 units (out of a total of 185 for WA).

Deliveries – by chassis
Swedish marque Scania topped the chassis deliveries list in 2009, with a sizeable 22 percent share of the market – its best-ever result.

ABC data shows the company recorded 43 deliveries in December, including 19 to CDC, taking its full-year total to 403.

This result eclipsed its previous best-ever outcome of 338 deliveries in 2007, and lifted its market share from 17 percent previously.

Scania’s sales growth relegated 2008 market leader Mercedes-Benz to second place with 359 or 19.52 percent of deliveries, down from 20 percent in the previous year. The German marque delivered 34 units in December, including 10 to Transperth and nine to State Transit in NSW.

With 18 deliveries in December, including 12 to Busways Blacktown, MAN jumped into third spot on the deliveries table in 2009, dispatching 280 chassis or 15.2 percent of the market, slightly down on its 16 percent share in 2008.

After placing third in 2009, Volvo dropped to fourth spot, with a credible 14.95 percent of the market, down from 16 percent in 2008. Its 34 deliveries in December – including 20 to NSW operators Buslines (9), STA (6) and Veolia (5) – pushed its full-year output to 275 units.

BCI, meanwhile, lifted its share of the market to 12 percent, up from 10 percent previously, delivering 221 units in the period – including 10 in December.

Rounding out the table were Hino, whose market share dipped to 5.6 percent, down from 8 percent previously; Bustech (3.64 percent vs 5 percent in 2008); Iveco (3.7 percent vs 4 percent in 2008); and Daewoo (1.57 percent vs 3 percent in 2008).

White-Higer snared just over 1 percent of the market in the six months in which its deliveries were included in the statistics.

Deliveries – by body
Volgren again ranked as the country’s largest body builder, lifting its share of the market to 29.2 percent in 2009.

The Grenda family’s body-building arm delivered 537 units in the period – including 48 in December – to lift its market share from 26 percent in the previous year.

Custom Coaches maintained its position as Australia’s second-largest body builder, extending its share of the market from 22 percent in 2008 to 23.49 percent in 2009 with a record 432 deliveries, including 33 in the last month of the year.

Perth-based BCI, controlled by the Nazzari family, captured an impressive 12.01 percent of the market with 221 deliveries (including 10 in December), up from 10 percent previously; while the Calabro’s Queensland-based bus-building division, Bustech, ranked as the country’s fourth-largest player, delivering 193 bodies (including 23 in December) to snare a 10.49 percent share of the market.

North Coast (2.06 percent), Coach Design (2.06 percent), Coach Concepts (1.74 percent) and Irizar (1.36 percent) all achieved slight lifts in market share; while Mills-Tui (3.75 percent), Chiron/UBC (3.26 percent), Express (3.26 percent), Designline (2.61 percent) and P&D (1.63 percent) all experienced marginal declines in share.

Deliveries – by air-conditioning
Thermo King again dominated the air-conditioning market in 2009, with its units fitted to 32.97 percent of vehicles delivered.

The 54 units delivered in December pushed its full-year total to 588, up from 513 in 2008 and 410 in 2007.

With 340 units supplied, including 29 in the final month of the year, Coachair captured just over 19 percent of the market.

Carrier snared 17.6 percent with 314 units, including 11 in December; Denso’s 253 units (including 31 in December) brought the company 14.18 percent of the market; and Cooltek, with 13 units delivered in December, rounded out the top 5 with 8.36 percent market share.

Deliveries – by seating
Family-owned McConnell Seats maintained its dominance of Australia’s bus and coach seating market in 2009. Its seats can be found in more than one-third of the vehicles delivered in the year.

With 694 buses and coaches fitted with its seats in the year under review, the North Coburg-based business snared an impressive 37.7 percent of the deliveries market in 2009.

Noel Dabelstein’s Brisbane-based Styleride Seating Systems came in a creditable second, with its products installed in 516 buses and coaches in the period, delivering it 28.05 percent of the market.

Leading body builder Custom Coaches, meanwhile, continued to expand its share of the seating market, mounting its products on 309 delivered vehicles, representing 16.8 percent market share.

APM snared 8.26 percent of the market with 152 units; while industry veteran Rod Ferguson fitted 63 vehicles in the six months in which his Transport Seating Technology was included in the official statistics.

By type, metro seating systems sustained their popularity on the back of record investment in route-city services.

Metro seats were the preferred solution for 1,336 — or 73.4 percent of buses and coaches delivered in 2009; while fixed seating systems were installed in 399 vehicles (21.9 percent); and recliners in 84 people carriers (4.6 percent).

The year ahead
With governments Australia-wide committed to continuing their record investment in new infrastructure and services, chassis suppliers and body builders — key beneficiaries of the public transport revival — are anticipating demand for new vehicles to remain strong.

Volvo Bus Australia General Manager David Mead expects 2010 to surpass the company’s record sales of 2009, underpinned by maintenance of historically high government funding — as well as strong sales of new models.

Custom Coaches’ Chief Executive Mark Burgess also expects market conditions in 2010 to be similar to 2009: "It might drop off a few percent, but demand for route and school buses [will] continue to be strong and most government agencies are looking for more buses, not less".

MAN Automotive Imports (MAI) National Operations Manager Mark Mello is also optimistic about the year ahead, albeit with some caution.

"2010 may be an interesting year in respect to funding of passenger transport. From what we see in the market, the demand is still strong for more services and increasing patronage will keep this trend going.

"Where MAI see a risk is governments’ ability to keep to its current level of commitment to public transport.

"Whilst the bus industry thus far seems virtually unaffected by the GFC, other areas of the country have not been, and governments at both a state and federal level have expended considerable amounts of cash to keep the economy rolling along via infrastructure projects and the like.

"This spending, MAI feel, may take its toll and may start to manifest itself in the form of spending cut backs during 2010 and this will no doubt effect the expenditure on public transport.

"It will be interesting to see if budgetary numbers change in the coming year," he says.

For the complete wrap up of deliveries in calendar 2009 see the 2010 edition of ABC’s annual bus buyers’ guide, BusSearch, available now as part of your ABC subscription. Contact Magshop on 136 116, or Magshop@magshop.com.au, or visit www.magshop.com.au, to subscribe.

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