US schoolbus manufacturers chasing $73m from China

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USA US schoolbus manufacturers, Navistar’s IC Bus and Blue Bird are hoping to cash in on huge amounts of Chinese funding (worth up to $73m) as the country urgently upgrades its school transport.

A spate of accidents in China highlighting the inadequate and poor quality vehicles in school service, combined with extreme overcrowding, led to around 40 deaths in 2011 and many more injuries. The current fleet includes all vehicle types from old service buses and coaches to minbuses, minivans, SUVs and taxis.

Public outcry has sparked Chinese officials into action and they engaged with American schoolbus builders over the incorporation of safety standards. Navistar assisted in drafting new construction legislation and has since signed a letter of intent over developments.

The market is expected to require up to 50,000 buses per year over the course of the upgrade programme. Some sales will result but technology transfer is likely to be a longer term aim of the Chinese.