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Redefining “entry level”

January 31, 2018
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Mercedes-Benz has the ambition to be the number one manufacturer in the South African bus market. To do so, it is boosting the structure of its bus business and strengthening its commuter-bus offerings with a new entry-level model. GAVIN MYERS attends the launch.

Mercedes-Benz is aware that, as a whole, the South African truck and bus market is very competitive, and that its bus model portfolio has recently been missing out on a competitor for the entry-level commuter bus segment. The new OF 1723 is set to change that.

“The 13th model in the local Mercedes-Benz bus line-up – the OF 1723 – is the ideal product to allow the brand to grow its presence in this segment,” says executive director of Daimler Trucks & Buses Southern Africa, Jasper Hafkamp.

“We are introducing the right products for the right segments, with the associated support and service structures in place to meet the demands of new and existing clients. Furthermore, we’re changing the structure of our bus business, with dedicated bus people across five regions in South Africa to better take care of bus customers,” he says.

So, what does the OF 1723 offer operators? This complete bus chassis offers seating for up to 66 passengers, and currently comes into South Africa completely built up. Mercedes-Benz South Africa will look at adding this model to its local production facility in the future.

Powering the new bus is the proven OM 906LA engine that produces 175 kW (235 hp) and 850 Nm of torque between 1 200 and 1 600 r/min. This unit also offers good fuel economy and refinement.

It is paired to the G85 six-speed overdrive manual gearbox, which, with its cable-shift mechanism and dual-synchromesh, large-sized gears, feels as though it could’ve come out of a passenger car. The 4,778:1 Mercedes-Benz RS4 drive axle is fitted to enhance efficiency and aid highway driving.

Further aiding reliability is the 395-mm clutch. With its 3,5-mm wear depth and uniquely developed organic material that enables better torque transmission, while dissipating heat effectively, the clutch is designed for a longer service life and reduced maintenance costs.

Aiding the 410 mm, ABS-equipped air brakes is an electromagnetic Telma retarder. Steel leaf-spring suspension is fitted to both axles, opening up the OF 1723 to all customer needs; from gravel to on highway. The powder-coated chassis frame aids robustness and, being 902-mm wide, stability.

“With this vehicle we’re aiming to offer Mercedes-Benz technology in an entry-level commuter bus at an affordable price,” comments Shane Henry, brand manager for Mercedes-Benz Bus & Coach Southern Africa.

“We listened to our customers, who highlighted the tough conditions in which they operate, as well as the limited financial resources at their disposal. This entry-level bus chassis will assist in curbing the number of challenges they face,” Henry concludes.

No doubt we’ll be seeing many more Mercedes-Benz branded buses in this segment.

My life has always revolved around anything with wheels and an engine. It doesn’t matter if its an old banger, the latest hot-hatch or a fancy 4×4 – any excuse is a good excuse to take it for a cruise, spank it at the track or go bundu-bashing (the mud-and-rocks-side-of-a-mountain type, not the exploring-Joburg’s-pavements type). Otherwise, chances are you’ll find me lying underneath one of my beloved toys or with my head buried in its engine bay, tinkering away.

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