Volvo upbeat and innovating

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A £1.4m investment, the Volvo Bus & Coach Sales Centre in Coventry is four times bigger than the building it replaces. ANDY IZATT

Faced with the most depressed bus and coach market for years, Volvo Bus has unveiled a much broadened, multifaceted product line-up to help maintain and grow its business

Volvo Bus has announced an unprecedented number of new product developments. There will be more interurban options in conjunction with Plaxton and Sunsundegui, a new high capacity tri-axle double-deck bus, and a body on chassis single-deck hybrid bus including a 10.8m midi. It says development work has also started on an all-electric platform that will be bodied both as a double and single-deck bus.

Full details are on pages 32-35 of issue 1365, while read in CBW next week how the manufacturer is tackling the retail sector, not least with the launch of its new premium coach, the 9900 at Euro Bus Expo.

“We have quite a lot going on that’s exciting,” said Volvo Bus UK & Ireland Managing Director Nick Page. “Opportunities have been a lot more limited this year than last. The market is in the doldrums. 2018 is difficult for all manufacturers because of the uncertainty brought about by Brexit. How do we handle it and how do we mitigate? AB Volvo has teams of people working on it.

“The problem is we can look at all the scenarios and plan, but we still don’t know what we’re actually going to have to deal with on 29 March when the UK leaves the EU. The sooner we get clarity, the better.

“Our primary objective is to make sure our customers keep their vehicles on the road. We must protect them and be in a position to react very quickly when we know what we’re dealing with.

A glass-fronted vehicle showroom and dedicated handover area are key elements of the new Volvo Bus & Coach Sales Centre in Coventry. ANDY IZATT

“From a sales perspective we also have to consider what’s happening in London which is a big market for Volvo. TfL (Transport for London) has said it’s going to reduce the bus fleet by roughly 2,000 vehicles. In terms of the five-year replacement cycle, we’re at the bottom at the moment.

“That means volumes are fairly low, but by 2021 it’s due to head towards peaking again. However, TfL also wants to smooth out the buying requirement. A similar number of vehicles will be procured each year and that will impact as well.

“Nationally, the big groups can also afford to take a year out from ordering without it impacting on the efficiency of their fleets. That again reduces the opportunity and there’s further uncertainty in the future about what are going to be the regulations we have to work to when it comes to air quality.

“As a business, we’re close to the market and our customers so what’s happening isn’t a surprise. We saw it coming and have realigned the business over the past 12 months to be able to handle it. Although our vehicle volumes are down, we’re still important to Volvo Bus Corporation. We’ll make a very good contribution again this year, albeit at a slightly reduced level because of new vehicle volumes. Parts sales remain very strong, but make no mistake. It’s tough. We don’t see that changing short-term. We’ll just work through it.

“Because we contribute and have done so consistently over a long period, we get a lot of support from head office in Sweden. The UK is a large and successful market for Volvo and it’s one that we will fiercely protect. We’re still able to invest despite difficult times and part of that is the new Coventry Sales Centre. We’ve been market leader in coach for a long time and now we have got facilities that reflect that. We can provide customers with a great experience, whether it’s viewing vehicles or collecting them.

“The industry we’re in will be a big positive factor going forward in terms of the environment and technology will drive investment in the medium to long-term. One of the massive issues that every country faces is congestion. Transport will play a fundamental part in city planning and mobility so we see the future as bright. We’re very positive.”