Neoman update - Meridian boosts MAN
The first Wright-bodied Neoman is an important step in the latter’s pursuit of a share of the UK market above 10 per cent. It currently sits at around 7 per cent.
"The name of Wrightbus is synonymous with quality and I am delighted that we are able to enter into this partnership," says Neoman Bus UK managing director Vince Welsh. "With a full low-floor concept, it will open markets in which we have never been before."
The first look at the new Meridian, based on MAN A22 chassis.
Wrightbus group managing director Mark Nodder adds: "The Meridian is an important addition to the Wrightbus range, bringing Wrightbus quality, passenger appeal, operational durability and in-service support to the full-sized low-floor single-deck segment. I firmly believe that it will prove to be a very flexible vehicle, meeting the needs of a number of operators both on scheduled urban routes as well as applications such as park-and-ride and airports."
And as well as extending the choice of bodies on MAN chassis, the Meridian also provides an additional EGR-based option for Wrightbus. The interesting question may be whether Stagecoach, which is a big fan of the MAN chassis, sees the new Wright-bodied option as a possible contender for future orders, although the shareholding interest of Brian Souter in Alexander Dennis could still be a barrier.
Elsewhere MAN chassis are proving a success with MCV. The second batch of an order for 20 MCV bodied-MAN 12.220s to TfL specification has now been delivered to Metroline. The 10.2m Evolutions have Euro 4 EGR engines.
Vince Welsh, Neoman Bus UK managing director.
The failure and subsequent purchase by the Darwen group of East Lancs Coachbuilders is likely to lead to delays in the bodying of MAN product. The first MAN double-deck was exhibited at last year’s NEC show and a second to TfL specification had been expected, and is still planned, according to Welsh. The original vehicle has now gone into service with Reading Buses and, while its low-height specification was designed to show the possibilities of the MAN 18.240 Kinetic Plus, its restricted headroom and interior layout may not be the best advertisement for what could be a promising entrant into the double-deck market.
The first of 100 Enviro200s on MAN 14.240 chassis for Stagecoach is scheduled to be ready before the end of 2007 and the Enviro300s on the A69 will follow.
One of the Metroline order for 20 MAN/MCV Evolutions
built to Transport for London specifications.
Other important bodybuilder partnerships include Plaxton, now part of Alexander Dennis, which has produced the first National Express-specification Panther on MAN R33 chassis with front-mounted wheelchair lift. The R33 Panther has 360hp engine and MAN TipMatic 12-speed transmission. The first Plaxton Centro midibus on MAN chassis, part of an order for Dawson Rentals, was also launched at the NEC show this week.
The MAN R37 chassis is now available with Beulas Aura body, marketed in the UK by BASE which has become an important outlet for Neoman and also supplies Marcopolo’s Viaggio III on MAN R33 and A91 chassis. The latter chassis is the subject of Neoman continuing interest in the school bus market. The A91 is bodied as a school bus by French builder FAST and Welsh has been assessing the possibilities of bringing it to the UK for some time although the challenge is clearly being able to get the selling price close to £100,000.
The Beulas Aura on three-axle MAN R37 chassis.
Since taking over the Neoman brief in the UK, Welsh has been able to demonstrate strong support from Germany for expanding the dedicated sales team and introducing specialist bus and coach dealers across the network in support of the 10 per cent-plus target. One niggle has been the lack of a Starliner 2 for the UK at Euro 4. The Starliner may be a low volume product but it has been an important flagship with some significant operator admirers who have now been forced to go elsewhere. Welsh is therefore delighted to have got firm backing from Germany for the Starliner 2 to appear at the 2008 NEC show as a right-hand drive Euro 5.
With the new Wrightbus Meridian, growth with MCV and ADL plus a wide range of coach options, Welsh is forecasting that the magic ten per cent could be achieved by the end of 2008, two years ahead of the plan.