Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar, Bhargav TS

Daimler India has unveiled a range of buses in association with Wrightbus, and heavy-duty trucks.

Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) has begun the production of buses in association with Wrightbus. This marks another wave of products from the company in the form of three mid-size buses (for staff, school and tourist application), a Mercedes-Benz 15 m long multi-axle luxury coach, a 3143 deep mining and coal tipper, and a 4940 (6×4) tractor. Banking on a high level of localisation (of up to 80 per cent), the body of the rear engine luxury coach for example is 70 per cent localised. The chassis of the coach is 50 per cent localised. Claimed to be planning to introduce a 12 m two-axle luxury coach on the same platform, DICV continues to be in the growth mode. The last quarter sales of the company posted a growth of 60 per cent.

Situated in the same premises as the truck plant at Oragadam on the outskirts of Chennai, the bus plant was built with an investment of Rs. 425 crore, and is spread over 27.61 acres. Built in a short span of one year according to Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, member of the Board of Management responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses, the bus plant has a capacity to build 1,500 units. It will eventually rise to 4,000 units. Drawing on Ireland-based Wrightbus’ experience in bus body building spanning over 70 years, the buses built at the plant will weigh 9-tonne, 16-tonne and above. Explaining that the multi-axle luxury coach is based on the Brazilian O500 platform, Markus Villinger, MD, Daimler Buses India, said, “We will cater to the private and public sector.” Stressing on the build quality of the buses, and the ability of their bodies to last long, Villinger averred that the buses are equipped with ABS. The luxury coach has ABS, ESP and EBS, he said. Averred Mark Nodder, Chairman & CEO, Wrightbus, “The association to build buses for Daimler India’s venture was won on the ability to deliver quality, speed to market and a good understanding of Daimler’s commitment to quality and robust products.” Remarked Hartmut Schick, Head of Daimler Buses, “The inauguration of the bus plant marks an important milestone. Our buses offer the best mobility; are reliable, robust, comfortable and competitively priced.”

Stressing on the high mobility standards Daimler products have come to offer the world over, Schick opined that the growing economy of India will create a need for mobility.

Integrated with Daimler’s global manufacturing network, the bus venture will also leverage the experience of the Brazilian counterpart in case of the rear engine bus chassis. “Supported by a strong supplier base, the bus plant underlines our commitment to localisation. Equipped with safety features and BS4 emission norms compliant, the buses will roll out in the third quarter of this year,” said Dr. Bernhard. In what could be termed as the amalgamation of modern technologies, the buses employ Wrightbus’ patented technology of bolting an aluminium body structure to the chassis. They are thus claimed to be lighter, efficient, robust and reliable. The tour of the bus plant revealed the role the chassis plant will play. Helping build luxury bus chassis, the plant has 44 stations. Of these, five execute final assembly operations. To ensure the right build standards, the company has trained workers in spot welding and MAG welding. Mid-size bus chassis find their way to the Wrightbus facility from the truck plant.

The two main lines (for mid-size bus and luxury coach each) at the Wrightbus facility include chassis inspection, under-floor preparation, flooring, interiors, glazing, seats and electronics, quality, paint preparation, primer and top coat, post paint, and testing. The two lines converge at the paint shop. Another paint shop will be added in the future, and as the numbers pick up. Emphasis will be also laid on training since areas like the attachment of box-section with the front and rear end of the luxury bus chassis, and the bolting of aluminium structure to the chassis have a direct impact on the success of the operation. Apart from a core team of 30 people from Wrightbus Ireland, the plant employs 140 people. This figure will rise to 1,300 people once the operation gathers speed.

Based on ‘platforms’ like the other Daimler Trucks portfolios the world over, DICV is not relying entirely on the local market. It never has. Stated Dr. Bernhard that the strategy is based on three pillars – technological leadership, gathering market presence and intelligent platforms. Out of this stems the need for synergies in areas like engine, chassis, electronics, etc. Drawing attention to a shift towards higher capacity trucks, DICV CEO Erich Nesselhauf reasoned that volumes will dictate the localisation of heavy-duty engines. The engine (OM457) that powers the 3143, 4940 and the luxury coach is sourced from Mannheim according to sources close to the company. It will be sourced from Brazil once the production shifts there. A major optimisation programme is currently on in Brazil.

With 20,000 BharatBenz trucks already on Indian roads, DICV is set to play an important role in the scheme of things at Daimler Trucks, which announced a revenue of EUR 8,414 million in the first quarter of 2015 against EUR 7,121 million a year ago. According to Dr. Bernhard, the third and fourth quarter are expected to bring substantial growth. Evaluating the city bus market in India while it caters to the private and public sectors, DICV, with an eye on exports, has already exported over 100 bus chassis to Egypt starting early this year. Over 2,000 trucks have been exported under the Fuso brand to more than 12 countries across Asia, Africa and other regions of the world. In right-drive and left-drive configurations. Over one-million parts have been exported to other Daimler locations across the globe. Boasting of offering zero discounts, DICV in India, is planning to utilise its 80 truck dealers to sell buses. With Daimler Financial Services by its side, the company is ensuring that the Indian commercial vehicle buyer has a wider choice.


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