The Mercedes-Benz OF 1723 bus chassis has entered its second year of sale on the South African commuter-bus market. By making this chassis available locally, the brand intends to capture the market for entry-level buses that do not compromise on quality
It’s no secret that 2018 was a tough year for bus operators, their passengers and their suppliers. While bus sales figures remained stable, the industry as a whole had to work exceptionally hard to keep the wheels turning.
For many operators, however, money that was initially allocated to the purchase of new assets may have been held back.
Shane Henry, head of department at Mercedes-Benz Bus & Coach, says: “While we would like nothing more than to report the sale of thousands of buses, the economic events of the past year mean that this has not been the case.”
Despite the disappointing start, Henry remains confident that the ongoing need to drive efficiencies in transportation will soon lead to an increase in sales.
“We believe the launch of the OF 1723 couldn’t have come at a better time. It caters for the right segment at the right time, and in doing so empowers customers to make a decision based on both price and quality,” states Henry.
Henry says that these busses can often perform a role similar to that of their more expensive counterparts, but for a fraction of the price. “This eases the capital outlay burden levied on the operator and makes the bus available to a wider base of operators,” he says.
When used in the correct application, Henry explains, the lower horsepower engine paired with the OF 1723 chassis also presents the capacity to save fuel.
Over the past year Mercedes-Benz has spent time communicating with customers in an attempt to gain an understanding of their needs. Henry asserts: “It’s not only about products, but solutions-based value-chain offerings.” With cognisance of the financial constraints affecting operators, Mercedes-Benz has structured favourable finance packages and repayment terms for bus customers.
Another value-added offering is that of customised maintenance contracts. Henry says: “Resources are stretched at facilities, and so maintenance contracts enable operators to concentrate on their role as a public transporter.”
Of course, there are always those operators who prefer to service their own fleets, and with this in mind Mercedes-Benz has implemented competitive spare-part pricing structures.
In 2019, Mercedes-Benz Bus & Coach plans to build on current performance and become a benchmark in the segment. “Through the development of more competitive tailor-made solutions and a focus on the customer-service experience, we wish to increase our presence in this segment.
“The South African bus business is not where it needs to be, but it is only a matter of time before we derive
benefit from our dedication to provide a safe, affordable and clean public-transport service to citizens,” concludes Henry.