SUPER 8 – MARCOPOLO G8 SERIES

By: Fabian Cotter, Photography by: courtesy Marcopolo


REGULAR coach passengers worldwide might have used that transport mode out of pure necessity, habit, or simply personal choice. Post-pandemic, coach tourism’s challenge is to woo them back in droves – as well as newcomers en masse. To do so, and if first impressions count, then Marcopolo’s new G8 series of coaches has all the calculations covered.

SUPER 8 – MARCOPOLO G8 SERIES
“The thousands of hours invested in the G8 vehicle range has resulted in one of the most innovative group of coaches in the world,” Volgren CEO Thiago Deiro stated.

It’s no secret that the long-distance coach tourism sector – not just in Australia and New Zealand – has taken a shellacking since the Covid-19 outbreak started near 18 months ago. 

What was once a burgeoning segment of the industry itself, arguably the sexy and glamorous side of the bus-travel experience, took a hit from the global fallout of planes grounded and advance bookings cancelled virtually overnight.  

Fast forward about 18 months and while few would say the pandemic is over (and there are more than enough out there saying that it was never meant to be), the industry in pockets has shown promising ‘green shoots’ of undergrowth that gives much hope for the future of coach travel, as it picks itself up from the floor, dusts itself off and rises to the challenge once more. 

A long shot? Maybe. Or maybe not. And it all may come down something as simple as … sleep. 

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THE POWER OF THE MIND 

If you’ve ever flown long distances in the past – sometimes for some that’s even within just their region or country – the novelty of fatigue and ‘jetlag’ wears off pretty fast. A necessary evil? For sure … before. Yet, what if that wasn’t the case in future? 

Aside from being ‘war-story’ boasting for seasoned jetsetters and travellers to those whom meet and greet them at the airport, travel fatigue can have some serious health implications if not managed properly. 

That is, while online sources like TheHealthy lists a range of hazards for air travel including: low oxygen making you feel sleepy or ‘headachy’; feet swelling and possible blood clots, dehydration, shifts in cabin pressure making people ‘gassy’ (no explanation needed there, fortunately. Or is that ‘unfortunately’?); ears popping; toothaches; dry skin and bad breath – to name a few – perhaps most undervalued is its effect on our circadian rhythm. 

Far from sounding like a B-grade reggae cover band begging for pub gigs on some obscure Caribbean island, tinkering with our ‘body clock’ is a dark art best left alone. 

The science behind it is too complex for here, but as experts like doctor Paulo M. Alves of MedAire, an ‘International SOS’ company that’s the world’s leading medical and travel security risk service, explains to TheHealthy: "Hormone secretion, sleepiness, alertness, and hunger sensation, among other functions, depend on our internal clock.

"The rule is that we need around one day for every hour of time zone we cross, so that means that after a six-hour transatlantic flight we would need around six days for our cycles to be fully re-synchronised with the local time." 

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Ultimately, this field will lead to the amazing pineal gland in our brains (who knew?) producing melatonin and super-fuelling our immunity, which, as Colorado State University among other medical doyens will explain: "…has the ability to entrain biological rhythms and has important effects on reproductive function of many animals." 

Even better, latest medical research on Swiss peer-review site MDPI proffers melatonin as a potential ‘silver bullet’, stating:  "…because of its wide-ranging effects as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory compound, melatonin could be unique in impairing the consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection." 

So, get good sleep and improve your immunity, maybe. Get better sleep on a coach than a plane and that can’t be bad for travellers, right?

Thus, post pandemic, if there is any founded or unfounded hesitancy to fly en masse again, this might put long-distance coach travel into a whole new realm of mainstream traveller acceptability. And, if so, supreme next-gen coaches like Marcopolo’s G8 series could prove immeasurably fortuitous in its future-travel foresight. 

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GREAT G8 

In the context of the above, imagine if you will be doing intra-continental, interstate and intra-state travel in the uber-comfortable, spacious, safe (the frontal collision testing was intense, for the fastest release of the driver) and classy confines of something like Marcopolo’s new G8 series of buses. 

If that Field of Dreams movie mantra was anything to go by, and with baseballer ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson metaphorically not just one of those accustomed to travelling via coach, but more specifically one who either curiously contemplates or ardently pines for it – but are yet to actually find the right vessel to make it happen – the G8 coach body might actually lure them out of the cornfields. 

As the Brazilian bus maker proudly states, the new G8 line of vehicles: "…represents a breakthrough in innovation for the brand, with unique standards of safety, comfort, connectivity, handling and ergonomics, for passengers and driver." 

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Designed along the traditional Viaggio and Paradiso lines, in their different versions the Generation 8 was developed for the leading OEM bus chassis manufacturers, with the first models leaving the Marcopolo assembly lines this August from the Ana Rech unit, in Caxias do Sul, southern Brazil. 

"Marcopolo always seeks to create innovative and truly valuable transport solutions for customers, passengers, collaborators and business partners," explained Marcopolo CEO James Bellini. 

"Generation 8 is a representation of this purpose.

"A concept designed to make buses safer, more comfortable, more efficient and more profitable.  

"Our goal was to design a vehicle capable of transforming the travel experience," he confirmed.  

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BEHIND A NAME 

Generation 8 stands out for its striking appearance, following the Marcopolo design DNA that values the fluidity of lines, clean and modern design to convey a sense of speed and lightness, the company says. The five-year project was on the premise of offering attributes of excellence to operators, drivers and passengers, it adds. 

The distinct, dark window panels starkly cascade down like a waterfall from along the top decks to the lower front. There's the signature look of the flanks. The panoramic windscreen front melds down gracefully, looking clean and unobtrusive to viewers inside and out, it would seem. 

The rear? Well, what was that Sir-Mix-A-Lot song again? Yes, that one. 

Collaboration and carefully thought-out integration between Marcopolo’s design, engineering and industrial operations was key. 

"We seek to bring buses as close as possible to the automotive concept in standardising the manufacturing and assembly processes," emphasised Luciano Resner, director of industrial operations at Marcopolo. 

"The result is a bus focused on quality and profitability for the operator, comfort and connectivity for passengers, as well as ease of maintenance and repair." 

Interestingly, where other companies – of any product, really – might introduce something new with an immediate cessation of the prior line, the successful and current G7 line (launched in 2018 and in action in about 80 countries) will still be in Marcopolo’s arsenal – with no immediate end date suggested in the slightest yet. 

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Weird and counterintuitive? To some this may seem the case – usually – yet to do so arguably strikes as Marcopolo having confidence in itself, its product lines and the coach segment as a whole in a pandemic-stymied world, and that can only be applauded from a bus fan’s point of view. 

With "customer satisfaction and appreciation" always in mind, the current road bus lines and the new G8 will continue in production and sales, receiving updates and innovations, he explains. 

"With strong efforts to optimise industrial processes, it will be possible to maintain the production of both lines simultaneously.

"Thus, we will be ready to increase Marcopolo’s share in the markets where we are already present, in addition to generating opportunities in new markets," Resner points out. 

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DRAG QUEEN 

The R&D and creative thinking behind a bus like this can never be under-estimated – and to outsiders it is often under-appreciated. 

Long distances bring fuel consumption, cost efficiencies and greenhouse emissions to the fore and Marcopolo has created a family of vehicles that show an 11 per cent improvement in drag co-efficiency, it states.  

Also on the list? Passenger comfort, of course. In this regard for the interior ‘experience’ of the G8, about 100 company engineers travelled by bus in all regions of the country, in total covering more than 44,000km to understand the different needs and preferences of customers, Marcopolo says.  

Everything was under scrutiny: width and spacing between seats; circulation inside the vehicle; length of stay on board; and use of electronic equipment, it confirms. 

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The result? Changes were made, such as the access stairs with wide steps, indirect LED lighting and a new design for the door opening system, which is more efficient and robust, it claims. 

To expand the interior space and better accommodate passengers and luggage, Marcopolo worked on different fronts, it says. The seats gained a new structure and ergonomic design, optimising leg space, while a new way of distributing the foam composition of the seat and backrest was also adopted – to ensure even more comfort and support, it states.  

And as we all know what a hassle seat reclining can be, for those sitting front and back, these seats now offer smoother activation, allowing numerous positions according to the user’s biotype. Very cool. 

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SUSTAINABILIY 

As clichéd as the term is these days, sustainability is being looked at for all products and services now to levels of minutia not seen before, no doubt. 

In terms of the G8’s body construction, one of the company’s priorities was to reduce the use of fiberglass by a massive 80 per cent, replacing it with raw materials from special polymers used in the manufacture of bumpers, front grills and back covers – among other components – resulting in lighter and more resistant parts, Marcopolo confirms. The upshot is these parts offer greater flexibility and impact absorption, and can be easily repaired or recycled, it explains. 

It was thought processes and care factor that manifests itself not only throughout this special coach design, but also to the impact it has on the very people putting it together and using the bus. 

Bringing high-level automobile-making standards of quality to buses, processes at its Ana Rech division were optimised, the company says. This included using welding machines with inverters and the use of gas for less impact on the operator and the environment, providing a reduction in energy consumption, it explains. 

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LOCAL WELCOME 

The new Marcopolo G8 range has drawn high praise from local subsidiary Volgren, with CEO Thiago Deiro telling ABC magazine the launch of the Generation 8 range of vehicles comes after years of hard work and represents a milestone moment for Marcopolo’s global network. 

"The thousands of hours invested in the G8 vehicle range has resulted in one of the most innovative group of coaches in the world," Deiro stated. 

"In addition to the outstanding design, the G8 sets new standards for safety, comfort, connectivity, handling and ergonomics. All of these factors combine to deliver a memorable experience for passengers and drivers, one they will not have encountered before." 

Deiro says the new products come at a significant time in the history of the bus market. 

"The coach and charter markets have been badly affected by the global pandemic. That’s true in Australia and it’s no different in South America and other markets where Marcopolo’s vehicles are being operated. 

"The Marcopolo Group has factories all around the world and we have been working collaboratively and supporting each other to get through this difficult time." 

Deiro adds that, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Volgren remained in a solid financial position and would keep investing in Australia. 

"We are determined to continue creating more local jobs and supporting all our customers and products in the market."

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PERFECT POSITIVITY 

Volgren’s national sales manager Yuri Tessari says Volgren remains positive about the coach and charter market returning to pre-Covid levels.  

"That’s why Volgren launched the New Audace 1050 in Australia earlier this year, and it’s why we think now is [a] perfect time for Marcopolo to launch the Generation 8 range," he explained. 

"There is a clear, pent-up demand in most countries due to constant restrictions that have prevented people from traveling for the past 18 months." 

Tessari says the current restrictions and uncertainty about a post-Covid world is having an impact on all bus markets around the globe.

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And this is a reality affecting many players in the industry, including supply chain and local body builders in Australia.

"With Marcopolo’s support, Volgren remains a great Australian manufacturer, offering innovative solutions, and constantly enhancing our products’ technology.  

"Our aim is to make certain we are offering the world’s best transport solutions, and providing our customers with support and products that are always improving." 

Volgren and Marcopolo will continue to explore the coach and charter market and develop local supply opportunities, Tessari confirms.

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