Thursday, 8 October 2009

Live & Kicking—1

Go to Live & Kicking 2 ~ 3

Blame the recession. A smaller exhibitors’ area, fewer buses & coaches and fewer freebies were the main characteristics of Coach and Bus Live 2009. There was certainly an absence of mainstream manufacturers’ vehicles at the NEC, just at a time when they need orders the most. It proves the point that although you can do good business at shows like this, orders for new vehicles almost invariably come at other times. Nevertheless, to prove that the industry was still kicking in spite of low confidence, Coach & Bus Live 2009 did offer one or two surprises.

Like the unveiling of the Chinese Foton BJ6123C7CXD urban single deck. Here was all the razzmatazz you expect at the launch of a new product, on this occasion with a troupe of Chinese entertainers (who looked rather white Caucasian) including a dizzying display from a hopping ‘dragon’. Except the BJ6123 wasn’t entirely new, as there were reported to be 800 in Peking alone, since its recent launch there. Expect budget European models from March 2010.

Foton is reported as the world’s largest producer of hybrid buses and the BJ6123’s Cummins engine was said to use up to 40 per cent less fuel. Really? 40 per cent? Sounds pretty good. Mercedes Benz has a 30 per cent stake in this Chinese state-owned manufacturer, officially known at Beiqi Foton Motor Co.

The bus itself looked a little too eastern European for modern British design standards. Internally, it was evident it was mainly for standees, such seats as there were seemingly placed awkwardly on platforms or perched over wheel arches. The entrance had a rather pleasing sweeping feel to it but it didn’t look entirely DDA compliant.

Plaxton showed one large vehicle only, the ‘new’ shorter two-axle variant of the Elite coach. It has to be said that the design suits the longer, tri-axle version but, no matter, this was still a great top-end coach, with excellent seating, pitch (leg room) and good fit & finish throughout, though the aircraft-style lockers on the roof rack will in time no doubt rattle. Jones Login’s livery suited the vehicle, too.

With uncertainties surrounding the Portuguese Marcopolo factory, BASE exhibited a new product, the budget Spanish Beulas Spica, which was basically a front & rear cosmetically updated Stergo. If moves to buy out the Marcopolo factory continue, expect re-branded & badged versions of the stylish Marcopolo range.

The winner on the BASE stand was the first RHD half-decker Beulas Glory. Appearing last year in LHD form, this is a coach of some distinction. Capable of seating 70 on one deck, this 14½m tri-axle offered a very high standard of accommodation. The only issues were the hazard possibly posed by the well the continental door that ate into the gangway and the somewhat compromised accommodation immediately behind the driver. But with such capacity above, you can overlook the latter. The vehicle was fully accessible (on the entrance floor).

To be continued, when we consider vehicles more mainstream...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Marcopolo is a Brazilian company and not Portuguese as stated in this post