Record order book for MAN
2007 was a somewhat frustrating year for Welsh. Sales increased to 332 vehicles, compared to 277 in the previous year. But registrations only increased by a handful to 223, with MAN ending the year with 6.5 per cent of the heavy bus and coach market.
Welsh reports that although he took orders for 170 buses for Stagecoach at the end of 2006, none of these were registered in 2007. On the upside, it means that he is confident that there will be around 300 registrations for Stagecoach alone in 2008. He is now in the position of focusing on 2009 orders.
The Meridian, launched last year to good critical acclaim, has won a few orders to date and 11 of the initial batch of 20 vehicles ordered from Wrights are in build with all vehicles scheduled for delivery in the spring. Whitelaws took the first Meridian vehicle and has ordered an additional five and two have been ordered by Reading Transport. The Whitelaws case is one of which Welsh is particularly proud. With the earlier deliveries of MCV-bodied MANs and the Meridians, MAN will have 14 out of Whitelaws 22 buses; in a fleet that has traditionally been 100 per cent Volvo.
Other customers that have bought MAN bus product include Metroline, Metrobus and Veolia. But apart from Stagecoach, the other big bus groups have so far proved elusive.
Stagecoach has been important to MAN’s move up the manufacturer’s table however. By the end of 2008 there are likely to be 1,024 MAN vehicles in its fleet.
MAN is also making significant progress with engine sales. In 2007 it sold 200 DO8 Euro 4 engines to Optare which has enabled the latter to make new conquests with EGR Solos, including six for Lothian Buses. Engine sales are also being considered to Darwen Group for its planned integral, and to Alexander Dennis for Enviro400.
The NEC show in November will see the return, as promised, of the Starliner to the UK. With the switch to Euro 4 and Starliner 2, the right-hand drive version was lost. The vehicle will return to the UK for the 2009 season at Euro 5, although the coach displayed at the NEC may well have a Euro 4 engine.
There will also be a new low-cost front-engined 10 tonne MAN coach with around 35 seats launched this year with a possibility of it appearing in time for the NEC show.
And FAST is aiming to introduce its school bus product to the UK, based on an MAN A91 chassis with 240bhp engine and automatic transmission. The company has a strong pedigree in the school bus market with around 500 a year being produced in France.
One product that may not have much of a future is the MAN double-deck bus. The victim of poor timing perhaps, as it fell foul of events at Blackburn last year, the only double-deck built to date is with Reading Transport. The earlier plans for a second demonstrator to TfL-specification have been shelved and the chassis is currently back with MAN at Swindon. Welsh appears resigned to the fact that MAN may be an engine rather than chassis supplier for double-deck.
Berlin has ordered a further 200 MAN Lion City double-decks, but the UK project has stalled in the wake of the East Lancs collapse.
Ironically, MAN has just announced an order for 200 additional MAN Lion City double-decks for Berlin. This follows 200 delivered last year. The next scheduled revamp of the Lion City is in 2012, so maybe that will provide the next opportunity for a right-hand drive double-deck.