‘We definitely want to take our ‘Make-In-India’ products global.’

Daimler India Commercial Vehicles has recently begun manufacturing BharatBenz and Mercedes-Benz buses. Managing director Markus Villinger speaks to Kiran Bajad on the production plan, level of safety and the export programme.

Kiran Bajad By Kiran Bajad calendar 13 Aug 2015 Views icon7427 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
‘We definitely want to take our ‘Make-In-India’ products global.’

Daimler Buses India has recently begun manufacturing front-engine BharatBenz buses and premium Mercedes-Benz rear-engine buses for inter-city operations. Managing director Markus Villinger speaks to Kiran Bajad on the production plan, level of safety in the buses and the export programme. 

What is your growth strategy in India and what is the sales target for FY2015-16?
With the opening of the bus plant, DICV is expanding its business. With this we become a full-fledged CV manufacturer in the Indian market. We will adopt a two-fold strategy with BharatBenz and Mercedes-Benz buses.

BharatBenz buses manufactured at the Oragadam plant will be front-engine buses for short distance travel targeting school, staff and tourist transportation. The premium segment will be addressed with Mercedes-Benz luxury rear-engine buses for inter-city transportation. As a policy, we do not share sales forecast.

Considering the Indian market is price-sensitive, how price-competitive are BharatBenz and Mercedes-Benz buses in comparison with the competition? Or do they sport a premium?
Our buses are designed as a highly safe, comfortable and aesthetic mode of transport, while providing the highest level of productivity with optimal total cost of ownership.

How do you foresee the bus market growing in India in the 9-, 16- and above-16-tonne categories?
The Indian bus market is around 40,000 units per annum, from 9 tonnes and above. The above-8T segment is expected to double by 2020. With the recent innovations, more buses are being introduced into the market.

These buses are spacious and comfortable. They are also eco-friendly and the mileage is also pretty good. Nowadays, new types of buses are being introduced which are equipped with advanced facilities and services such as air-conditioning, passenger information system, air suspension system, high quality engines and transmission systems and so on. With more such buses being introduced, the customer base is also expected to rise well over the few years.

Of the initial bus manufacturing capacity of 1,500 units, what is the product split for BharatBenz and Mercedes-Benz buses?
With the start of production of buses, the DICV plant is the only Daimler Trucks plant worldwide to produce trucks, buses and engines with three brands —  Mercedes-Benz, BharatBenz and Fuso —  under one roof. The front engine bus chassis are rolled out from the same assembly line as that of BharatBenz trucks. Our Mercedes-Benz chassis roll out from the newly set up rear engine assembly line in the new bus plant. Our assembly lines are flexible and will cater to market demands.

Is there a plan to export these buses? If so, which markets?
We are already exporting bus chassis to Egypt. The chassis from India are modified for use in buses. The chassis are competitive, high-quality products, due to their high degree of localisation and their incorporation in state-of-the-art production and logistics processes. We plan to include additional export markets in our sales network at a later date.

We definitely want to take our ‘Make In India’ products global. And, in this endeavour, we are in the process of studying the potential and preparing for exporting buses and will arrive at a decision on this in due course of time.

What is the initial feedback from potential customers to both buses?
We are overwhelmed by the response from our customers during the product premiere at our Oragadam plant. Customers across the country have shown a lot of interest in our buses and we have also received the first orders for the buses. We are excited in getting our buses to them and seeing them perform on the road.

When will the 15-metre coach roll out and who are the target customers?
The 15-metre Mercedes-Benz coach will roll out in September 2015 and will be for the inter-city segment.

What are the key features of the buses and the advantages of offering fully built solutions to customers?
With the new BharatBenz school bus, DICV wants to raise the bar in terms of safety for secure transport of children. The school buses are equipped with the latest safety features. In combination with reliability and low running costs for schools, they are a great choice for operators.

The BharatBenz staff buses are a cost effective and a comfortable mode of transit for employees. The newly developed buses are provided with several features that ensure a smooth ride to office. In addition to this, BharatBenz tourist buses are designed towards high fuel efficiency and low maintenance cost to minimise expenses for operators.

The visually appealing and comfortable buses help the operator to focus on maximising his profits. With the new multi-axle coach, DICV is introducing the next generation of Mercedes-Benz buses and the first 15-metre bus in India. The lightweight body and the high-end styling together with the increased capacity make it the most attractive product for inter-city applications.

What level of safety is Daimler Buses India offering, especially for school buses?
Our buses have all the safety features available in the competition buses, in addition to which, we have introduced Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) as a standard fitment in all our buses.

The Mercedes Benz range of buses would be equipped with Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and Electronic Braking System (EBS). The school bus will also come with seatbelts as a standard feature and an emergency-exit which has an openable step on the outside, making evacuation faster and easier.

The bus body has a strong Aluminique structure which is 1.4 times stronger than the conventional structure used by competitors, making it safer in case of rollover. All our buses are AIS-052 compliant and our school buses additionally meet AIS-063, the school bus standard. 

This interview has been published in Autocar Professional's August 1, 2015 'South India Special' print edition.  

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