Despite a difficult economic climate for most industries, there has been increased demand in the local bus and coach sector in the second half of 2019.
“The demand for reliable, safe transport for commuters is growing, owing to increased urbanisation, thereby placing bus and coach manufacturers and suppliers in a prime position to provide transport solutions,” says multinational automotive company Daimler subsidiary Daimler Trucks and Buses Southern Africa (DTBSA) bus and coach divisional head Jason Brunninger.
Owing to this, he notes that the company is confident that there will be even more growth in demand in 2020.
However, Brunninger notes that the bus manufacturing sector is not without its challenges, which include the demand for customised bus specifications to cope with South Africa’s inconsistent road conditions and fluctuating climate, as well as the need to collaborate with the informal commuter transport industry.
“We are fortunate that the industry is a relatively close-knit community that faces these challenges head-on and with ingenuity,” he tells Engineering News.
He cites the example of DTBSA, which was established in January as a separate legal entity dedicated to current and future truck and bus requirements in the Southern Africa region. The company is developing front-engine buses, in line with Euro 3 and Euro 5 emission standards, and is offering the options of dual fuel – gas and diesel – as well as compressed natural gas, which can be tailored according to the operational requirements of clients.
Despite these advanced offerings, however, Brunninger says DTBSA aims to push technology in the country even further by introducing the electrification of buses.
“Mercedes-Benz buses are already offering this technology in Europe and this is creating a great platform for us to understand how this can be rolled out globally in the future.”
He adds that this will be the next great challenge in terms of technological advancements in the South African bus and coach sector, and will require advances in terms of infrastructure, as well as specialised training, to support the new bus technology.
As part of its mission towards driving technological advancements, DTBSA chief executive Jasper Hafkamp mentions that DTBSA will sharpen its strategic focus and provide the entrepreneurial freedom to respond quickly and flexibly to the changes in the automotive industry.
Moreover, he points out that DTBSA will also expand its product range in the Southern Africa region.
“To meet the ever-changing environment’s needs, you need to remain agile and be able to adjust your strategy and tactics, but always remain true to your vision. Your vision will be the guiding principle for how you develop a sustainable business,” Brunninger concludes.