A decade after its entry into the Indian bus market in 2001, Volvo has quickly become a household name for comfort, safety and luxury. Volvo Bus Corporation, the Swedish bus giant, which introduced several new concepts to the Indian bus traveller, has not only set a benchmark in the air-conditioned luxury bus market in India but is also the undisputed heavyweight champion in a market that is growing at 9-10 per cent annually.
The bus company has successfully introduced new concepts and products that were unheard of in India-such as the air-conditioned bus, inter-city coach built on a true bus chassis or the low-floor air-conditioned city bus or the multi-axle inter-city coach. Today, Volvo's City Buses ply across 12 cities, and its coaches across every key route in the country. "Ten years ago, the luxury bus did not exist in India. But, when people travel in Volvo buses today, they find similarities with air travel. At each step, we worked towards bringing in a change that would re-define the way people travel and the way they see a bus," says Akash Passey, Senior Vice President, Business Region International, Volvo Bus Corporation.
The luxury bus market is divided into two parts: The chassis market, which produces approximately 250 units per month on which luxury coaches are made locally; and fully built luxury coaches, of which Volvo sells 60 units per month. In total, the market size is at around 3,700-4,000 units and growing at about 9-10 per cent annually with Volvo holding onto a 75 per cent share. Volvo's buses are priced in the range of Rs 70 lakh to Rs 1 crore and the company is estimated to have sold Rs 700 crore worth of buses in the 2011 calendar year in India, according to industry estimates.
The serious intent with which Volvo has sized up the Indian market-and the manner in which it has raised the bar even further for bus makers-can be seen by the slew of new products it has introduced in the country. First, is the 9400 PX, the country's first 14.5 metre long luxury coach with the highest seating capacity, offering a steered axle for better manoeuvrability. It is also equipped with more luggage space, a pantry and a lavatory. Second, is the country's first multi-axle city bus, the 7400 XL offering 55 per cent more occupancy while reducing emissions by 30 per cent, and equipped with a steered axle. Third, is the 9100 coach, a global introduction for Asia, from Asia and called the Asia Bus thanks to significant R&D contributions from its Indian research centre in Bangalore. The fourth is a hybrid bus, Volvo 7700, which is still to be launched commercially in India.