Hanover Show - Deal or no deal?

Hanover Show - Deal or no deal? Neoplan Cityliner restyling shows more than a hint of the Starliner.

There was one question on the lips of most journalists at last week’s press preview for the IAA commercial vehicle show in Hanover. But MAN and Scania representatives refused to play ball. Packed press conferences saw ranks of media awaiting more details but the top tables remained tight-lipped.

MAN’s Hakan Samuelsson simply repeated his earlier statement that the proposed takeover – which he later referred to in more conciliatory tones as a "merger" – represented good value for both sets of shareholders and would create a powerful combined operation focussed on commercial vehicles.

Scania’s representatives were even less forthcoming. Following their presentation there was one question posed: anything further to add on the bid from MAN? After a one-line response that the board and major shareholders had already rejected the offer, the PR boss called for further questions. There were none; so it was an early finish for Scania’s team.

And although there were plenty of rumours around the show, that was about it as far as takeover excitement goes, so it was back to the day job to look at the product on display.

For those who don’t know the Hanover show, the first thing to note is that it is big, very big. Not for nothing do the organisers provide bicycles and shuttle buses just to travel between the halls.

Of course, it is dominated by trucks, but there was plenty of interest for bus and coach visitors as well.

Aside from dominating the news agenda, MAN used the show to unveil its new Neoplan Cityliner, a stunning luxury coach that takes its styling cue from the new Starliner. The Cityliner is available in three lengths – 12.2m, 13m and 14m – with seating capacities from 46 to 59. Powered by the 10.5-litre MAN D2066 at 400 or 440hp or the 12litre D2676 at 480hp for three-axle vehicles, the EGR Euro 4 engines in the Cityliner are fitted with a particulate filter, PM-KAT as standard. Transmission is the six-speed ZF 6S1900 or MB GO210 with an optional automated 12-speed TipMatic transmission (standard with the 12-litre engine).

MAN reiterated its belief in the durability of EGR technology in meeting emission limits beyond Euro 4. It announced that a Euro 5/EEV version of the D08 engine will be available in early 2007, demonstrated at the show with a Lion’s City M midibus, with a 10.5-litre D20 version to follow at the end of next year.

Mercedes-Benz Tourismo had its world
premiere at Hanover.

EvoBus unveiled its new Tourismo high-deck touring coach at Hanover. A right-hand drive Tourismo will be on show at the NEC in November, with vehicles ready for UK delivery at the start of next season. The new Tourismo is designed at lengths of 12.1m, 13m two or three-axle and 14m three axle, although the UK will initially see just the 12.1m version. The Tourismo is powered by an SCR 12-litre OM457 LA engine at 354hp in two-axle or 408hp in the three-axle version, with a Mercedes-Benz GO190 or GO210 six-speed manual transmission as standard. The two-axle Tourismos have a horizontal engine while the engine for the three-axle versions are vertically mounted.

Oliver Moeckesch, EvoBus UK managing director. 

EvoBus UK managing director Oliver Moeckesch has high hopes for the Tourismo and mindful of criticisms of the early Touros, is preparing the ground carefully. "Before we deliver the first vehicles in March 2007 we will have prepared our whole service organisation for the Tourismo. All of the technical training will be complete and the spare parts will be in place."

And in keeping with its dual brand approach on coaches, EvoBus will also have a very high-specification Setra at Birmingham. A sneak preview was available at Hanover with a luxury S416HDH with two-plus-one seating, glass roof and flat wooden floor. The NEC version will not have the wooden floor but will stake a claim to be the most luxurious Setra ever presented in the UK. It has not yet been identified for a customer but no doubt there will be significant interest from Setra fans.

Moeckesch has set challenging targets for growth in the UK. Building on the legacy built up under his predecessor Hans Smits, he is aiming to lift the combined market share for Mercedes-Benz and Setra to 15 per cent by 2008. This compares to around 7 per cent in 2005 and Moekesch is aiming for around 50:50 split between bus and coach. The success of the Tourismo is clearly important in achieving this and EvoBus can take heart from the success of the midi-sized Tourino which has won 30 orders in its first year, around 25 per cent share of that segment, according to Moeckesch. The fact that a right-hand drive Tourismo has been produced at the same time as a left-hand drive is a signal of the importance that the EvoBus board now places on the UK and Ireland markets. Its group target for western Europe is a 30 per cent market share over 8tonnes, which means that it needs to increase its share in the bigger markets, such as the UK. Moeckesch says that he is likely to be making a case to his board for further products in due course. One possibility could be the Citaro Integro for interurban/rural services.

A glimpse of Setra S416HDH luxury - also to be seen at the
NEC, minus the wooden floor.

While its early growth in the UK depended on London’s Citaros, EvoBus has now made big strides outside the capital. Around 90 12m Citaros will be delivered outside London in 2006 and the first vehicles have now gone into service in Scotland with McGills. A new order for 2007 has just been won from Go Ahead North East for nine Citaros.

In keeping with the prominence of environmental issues, hybrid technologies were also to the fore at Hanover. Alison Transmissions has considerable experience of the technology in North America with more than 500 hybrid vehicles in operation across the Atlantic. At the IAA show it launched its E’drive systems in a Solaris Urbino 18m artic and a VDL APTS Phileas which is being developed for northern France.

Solaris unveiled its new 18m artic with Cummins diesel
engine and GM Alison two-mode hybrid system.

As a truly international show, Europe is not the only focus of Hanover of course. Most of the leading manufacturers demonstrated their world-class status with much interest in China and India. Iveco has had some false starts in China before, including the aborted tie-up with CBC. But Iveco is not letting its concerns about "unofficial technology transfer" make it give up on this market; indeed it is seeking to double its world output on the back of growth in the Chinese market. In India it has withdrawn from its involvement with Ashok Leyland and is now talking to TATA in conjunction with Fiat.

MAN meanwhile is looking for major growth in India and signed a partnership deal with Force Motors earlier this year. A 24,000 capacity plant is being completed which will initially focus on trucks, although Indian bus manufacture is planned from 2008.

But of course in an ever-shrinking commercial world, trade is not just one way. Russian-owned GAZ Group set up an international operation in July to buy the ailing LDV operation in Birmingham. But this was clearly not just an opportunistic purchase. GAZ appears to be deadly serious about growth. Founded in the Soviet era in the 1930s, the company is already a significant player in terms of production output. It has a 50 per cent share of the Russian LCV market and ranks at world number 7 in this category. It also has nearly two thirds of its home bus market, producing more than 20,000 a year and aims to grow into a major world player producing 30,000 buses a year. It already has a turnover of more than $4.4billion and aims to double that by 2011.

Premiership football in the UK has become dominated by Russian-backed investors, so why not the bus and coach sector as well? Watch this space.