Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  10 Nov 2008

Motoring: Bus-builders ask for urgent tender decisions


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Geoff du Plessis, formerly CEO of MAN Truck and Bus SA, said local bus builders urgently required more support from all tiers of government who still had to award tenders for buses, if South Africas bus-builders were to deliver an expected 2200 buses in time for 2010.

Du Plessis, now head of MAN Truck and Bus UK, flew in to address executives in the truck and bus industries at the 2008 Johannesburg International Motor Show. He praised the government-driven growth in South Africa in comparison to the European market, which he said was essentially dead in the wake of the global credit crunch.

Our order books in the UK are down to some 150 units per month from the usual 750 to 800 orders. The European market does not enjoy the same economic drivers that South Africa has.

Du Plessis however expressed his concern that delays in awarding bus tenders could negate the job creation and skills training benefits which are locked up in the tenders.

Building buses is very labour intensive with long lead times. Unless we get support soon from government, the delayed allocation of tenders will cause capacity constraints by 2010, said du Plessis.

Thomas Hemmerich, the new CEO at MAN Truck and Bus SA and until recently CEO of MAN Germany, said South Africa normally needed some 1500 buses per year, of which MANs plant in Olifantsfontein supplied some 40%.

Tenders from the National Department of Transport, requirements for bus rapid transport systems in five cities and the Gautrain project will require local body builders to deliver some 2200 extra buses in the next 18 months, said Hemmerich.

Ray Karshagen, Management Board Member at MAN Truck and Bus SA, responsible for business development buses, said the problem was not the capacity of the local body building industrys ability to deliver, but the time it took to train new staff.

The next two years will provide enormous opportunity for increased employment and skills training, but we need to both hire and train these people. It takes us at least 800 man-hours to build a commuter bus and up to 1600 man-hours for a luxury coach. Its therefore imperative that the officials responsible give priority to awarding the tenders so that local bus builders can start the process, said Karshagen.

Fabio Janowski da Cruz. MD of Marcopolo SA said his company also hoped to hear the results of their tenders before the end of 2008. Marcopolo is competing on all the bus tenders and has invested US$10 million to triple the production capacity at its Germiston plant in order to build eight buses per shift, which will easily exceed the current order for 700 buses. The Germiston plant currently employs 601 staff, whose number will increase to 1000 in 2009.

Marius Bezuidenhout, director of Stabilis Bus and Truck in Nuffield, Springs, supported MANs call for action.

He said Stabilis, which also builds Hino and Mercedes-Benz buses, recently dedicated an assembly line to build Chinese FAW buses.

Buses create the most jobs per unit in the transport sector and we look forward to receive more committed support from all levels of government for our industry to promote job creation, instead of just importing buses,said Bezuidenhout.

Importers ready with Oriental buses

While the local bus-builders are on tender hooks for tender allocations, importers have introduced four Oriental buses at JIMS to meet the expected rush for buses and coaches when the effects of the delayed tender announcements impacts on delivery.

Stanley Anderson, head of marketing at Hyundai South Africa, introduced the Universe coach to local buyers. Anderson said South Africa was only the second country after Japan to import the Universe coach, which is built at Hyundais Truck and Bus plant in Jeonjy, Korea.

Our Universe coach has already proven itself at the 2002 Fifa Soccer World Cup. We have now adapted the Universe to meet South Africas 10200kg weight-limit for luxury coaches and can deliver them locally within three months from order. Our speed of delivery, our class-leading, full-manufacturers warrantee and Hyundais status as official Fifa sponsor all combine to make us very confident of winning at least part of the luxury coach tender, said Anderson.

The China Motor Corporation, a relatively new Boksburg-based company, imports Yutong buses from China. Imran Moola, CEO of CMC, said they were testing three buses, including a luxury coach, for SAs use. We plan to sell the luxury coaches from R900,000, including a two year/400,000km warrantee with roadside assistance, said Imran.

CAM, a local importer of top Chinese brands like the popular Inyathi taxi, has also introduced Chinas Xiamen Golden Dragon tourist coach, which the group will sell locally as the Ndlovu.

From India, Tata plan to import two new buses, a low-entry city bus and a high-deck 45-seat luxury coach. Tata currently rates as the worlds second largest manufacturer of trucks and buses and is ramping up the worlds largest new bus plant with Marcopolo, with a second phase of expansion that will see a joint venture with Europe's largest super-luxury bus builder, Hispano Carrocera of Spain.

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