A late lunge past the winning post saw the bus industry break the 1,500 chassis and body delivery mark

<b><font color=red> LATEST BUS DELIVERIES EXCLUSIVE:</b></font> Barrier Broken

By David Goeldner | January 11, 2012

So the barrier was broken, and the 1,500 target achieved, but whether 2011 was a good year or not depends on which ‘horse’ you backed to bring home the chocolates.

White Motor Corporation’s Higer distribution network helped the industry push past the magic figure with 43 deliveries in December, bringing the total number of ABC-recorded bus sales for 2011 to 1,528.

It was a serious effort by Higer, tapping into a demand for 57-seat coaches to service Bechtel’s growing Liquefied Natural Gas workforce in central Queensland.

Following four 12.2 metre RoadBoss coaches going into service with the engineering firm in October, Higer backed that effort up with nine more in November, and an impressive 39 units in December.

But it wasn’t just Higer tapping into the resources sector. BCI had a reasonably buoyant month for December with 19 units delivered overall, with nine 57-seat Classmasters heading to Western Australian-based charter operators who predominantly service the state’s mining industry.

The European players also did reasonably well, with Volvo rounding out the year with 36 vehicles delivered pre-Christmas, and a strong finish from Swedish compatriot Scania delivering 34 units, tripling their November efforts.

Scania was the big mover at year’s end, and expect big things from them in 2012 as they make their way back into government route service provision, particularly in NSW.

A curious statistic emerging from the December data is the dominance of fixed seating on buses, as contrasted to rigid urban metro and coach class recliner style seats.

This wasn’t exclusively a cue from the Asian-built brands either, as operators chose fixed rigid seating styles on some of the more prominent Euro brands, notably Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and MAN.

The ‘ins and outs’ of the seating industry will be covered in greater depth early in 2012, as ABC undertakes a thorough analysis of this hotly contested side of the industry for a special feature which will appear in the April issue.

Air-conditioning will also come under closer analysis in 2012, with behind the scenes whispers that there could be a few new entrants into the market in the year ahead. However, it might take a well-worked marketing plan to catch the dominance and position Thermo King has stamped on the industry in 2011.

The air-con giants wrapped the year streets ahead of its rivals with 72 units placed in December with Denso ranking second with 18 units.

The conservative, tried and tested choice of long-established suppliers and their offerings to operators could have a bearing on air-con, seating and other sundry bus and coach item selections in a climate of uncertainty in the marketplace.

But the cautious approach to sticking with well-established brands doesn’t quite reconcile with the budget conscious approach to bus procurement with less ‘expensive’ bus makes being selected, such as Higer.

This could well be the way ahead over the next 12 months, as operators seek new chassis on price, and body-accessorise to a premium.

As one of our leading ABC columnists would say, its ‘food for thought’, and there does seem to be available data to back up the hypothesis.

In relation to data, and a soon to be released outpouring of facts and figures from 2011, the 2012 iteration of the BusSearch bus buyers directory – now rebadged as ‘NewBusSearch’ to reflect that we are featuring new as opposed to used buses – will soon be available. NewBusSearch gives a complete wrap up of 2011, and showcases available product for the year ahead.

Also featured will be the new entrants making their first forays into the Australian bus and coach sector, notably Yutong, as well as the more familiar European and Australian bus brands that have served the industry exceedingly well for several decades.

There will be choice aplenty as we head into 2012, proving the industry remains dynamic, with new barriers yet to be broken.

Exclusive bus delivery data for December 2011 is available here.

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