Luxury buses redefine comfy travel on the road

Volvo, Scania joined by Daimler and MG Group to heat up race

Luxury buses redefine comfy travel on the road

 Luxury bus travel over long distances has emerged a sought-after option today, thanks to a slew of international luxury players who saw promise in the Indian market.

Sweden’s Volvo Buses has been in India for the last 14 years, heralding the concept of luxury bus travel. “Luxury bus travel redefined ‘travel’ itself. It redefined the way people led their lives. Earlier, it was not common for women and children to travel over long distances in bus. This trend is changing today, since, people feel safe and secure to travel by bus. Also, the prestige of people who can’t own a car rises when they travel by luxury bus,” Volvo Buses India Managing Director V R V Sriprasad told Deccan Herald.

Volvo Buses India sells city buses as well, apart from inter-city coaches, having sold around 1,400 city buses in the country, clocking two billion km of vehicle mileage in total. The company has invested in a full-fledged 1,500 capacity bus manufacturing facility at Hoskote, near Bengaluru, from where the buses — the 41-seater, seven-litre Volvo 9100; the 43-seater 940; the 12-metre 8400 in single-axle configuration; and the 9400 XL and 9400 PX in multi-axle configuration, are rolled out.

Hard-earned trust

The trust of the market in luxury bus travel did not come easy. “When we came to India, the state of affairs was worse. Eventually, our products were adapted, tested, and validated. We ushered in a new paradigm shift in public transportation…Today even small towns like Sholapur and Puducherry are happy with our buses,” Sriprasad claimed.

On the safety front, Sriprasad said the safety parameters brought into India like ABS, disk brakes, tubeless radials, etc. were way ahead of what was mandated by law. He, however, declined to comment on some of the mishaps that took place involving Volvo buses, saying the matter was sub judice.

Another Swedish giant, Scania, has invested Rs 300 crore in a 1,000-unit facility in Narasapura, near Bengaluru, which rolls out three variants of buses — (double and triple-axle) 12-, 13.7- and 14.5-metre vehicles — and plans to sell around 350-400 units.
“The GDP growth looks promising, and the market for luxury buses is rising. Availability of good financing options and the government’s proposal to provide all-India permits, and policies such as GST, will help private operators,” Scania India Managing Director Anders Grundstrommer said.

Scania is also hinting at metro city buses. “There is growing mobility in cities. Inter-city traffic is on the rise, calling for more safe buses to be developed,” Grundstrommer said.
Daimler India is another player in the market. The company will this week unveil its new bus plant at Oragadam, near Chennai. The event will also showcase its second wave of products (BharatBenz 3143, and BharatBenz and Mercedes-Benz Buses) that will add to its presence in the market.

Meanwhile, bus-builder MG Group has tied up with Germany’s MAN to roll out luxury buses under the brand Mammoth. While the chassis would be produced by MAN Trucks India’s Pithampur plant, MG Group’s Belagavi plant would make the body and fittings. “Bus penetration in India is less than one bus for every 1,000 people. We are confident of being in the right area,” MG Group Executive Director Anil Kamat said.

In India, around 85 per cent of passenger transportation happens on road, and many take the bus. According to market consultancy TEAMPro, the Indian luxury bus segment was valued at Rs 3,000 crore in 2013, and enjoys an annual growth rate of 15-20 per cent. The premium bus segment is expected is to sell 800 units this year, having seen sales of 450 units last year.    

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