EXCLUSIVE: Not dead yet

Few signs of life in new bus sales may not be as grim as it appears

EXCLUSIVE: Not dead yet
<b><font color=red> EXCLUSIVE:</b></font> Not dead yet

By David Goeldner | October 12, 2011

If you were a medical doctor and bus data was a heart monitor the first assumption would likely be to pronounce the bus industry deceased.

But that’s before you checked for a pulse and looked for some vital signs of life.

September’s bus delivery result of 113 vehicles delivered is just one unit more than August and 45 units short of where the industry sat at this time last year.

Astute bus industry observers are aware that 2011 has not been an exceptional year and that markets have tightened up, and competition on the chassis and body supply side intense.

Scania is looking good for the rest of 2011 and into 2012 having just secured an STA contract with NSW State Transit for 100 low floors, and MAN are expecting to start generating interest in its new C130 city bus before its 2012 S120 school bus arrives.

Volvo Bus has celebrated 40 years in Australia, and a new chassis is on its way – the B11R. What this chassis appears under won’t be known till early next year, but what it says is there is still confidence in the market, even though the industry has clearly plateaued at a time of year when sales are usually brisk.

But this flat line doesn’t mean ‘flat lining’, as you might suggest in medical terms.

CDC in Sydney, Brisbane City Council, and Transperth in WA are still replacing city buses through established suppliers, mainly from market leader Volvo (42), followed by Mercedes-Benz (19).

Suppliers deemed not to be in the government route service business, although they might like to be, such as Higer and BCI, show signs of doing a little better than treading water.

So the heart is there, and business is alive although perhaps not ‘beaming’ in the school and charter sector as compared with city commuting.

Geographically, it could be a case of glancing north, with Queensland leading sales in September, mixed between school, charter and route service supply.

Higer supplied six units to construction and mining giant Bechtel, Bustech got busy with its double-deckers on the Gold Coast, and Benz had a diverse spread around the sunshine state.

The people at Mercedes-Benz appear to have scored something of a coup, selling a Coach Concepts-Benz O500R to Sisils Bus Lines in Brisbane.

Our friends on the bus gunzels internet discussion board would likely raise an eyebrow at this news, but don’t get too excited – the Benz is a Euro 4.

What this points to, however, is that even operators who squeeze the maximum 25 year service life out of a vehicle will still buy, and not necessarily second-hand.

New vehicle sales appear to be capturing that part of the market once the domain of used bus sellers, even when times are a bit tougher just now.

So it might be a case of waiting for replacement opportunities from unexpected sources, and biding the time a bit while keeping the cardio ticking over.

The industry is far from dead.

Exclusive bus delivery data for September 2011 is available here.

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