The 2010 Auto Expo was the venue at which Mercedes-Benz India launched its 3-axle Intercity Luxury Coach earlier today. Incorporating new-age technology to improve safety, comfort and reliability, the coach is built upon a O 500 RSD 2436 Mercedes-Benz chassis by Indian body maker Sutlej Motors Ltd. The 6-cylinder inline Euro 3 engine is located at the rear of the coach is turbo-charged and inter-cooled. The Merc's engine produces a healthy 122 kgm of torque at 1400-1600 rpm. Features of the coach include a panoramic view of the road from the driver's seat, driver operated suspension lift for preventing damage to the vehicle on bad roads and ABS that improves over all safety.
Step into the plush interiors and the rows of seats mounted higher than the aisle, greet you. A roof mounted AC system cools things down and the two LCD screens should keep the passengers as happy as punch. For the luggage, a large compartment located between the front and rear axles should be ample enough to accommodate even the largest of suitcases with ease. The bus is available at a price of Rs 85-95 lakh, depending on seating configuration.
Speaking later to a select group of journalists, Mr Hartmut Shick, Head of Daimler Buses said that they have currently sold 25 units of the two-axle bus in 2009 that was launched in 2008. Despite having an installed capacity of 1200 units for both buses and trucks, the company manufactures one unit of either vehicle a day. It has no immediate plans of ramping up production and is looking at India from a long term point of view.
The company believes that India is fast moving towards more luxurious and comfortable buses and that the tailormade chassis for both the two-axle and three-axle bus for India means that they are in for the long haul. When quizzed about the possibility of the next bus product being a low-floor, Mr Schick neither denied nor confirmed the same but said they were exploring all options.
Internationally the company retails both diesel as well as hybrid buses. Its largest hybrid bus market happens to be the United States where it sold 3000 units last year. While the company isn't talking about a timeframe for its introduction in India, it did mention that the average breakeven for a hybrid bus is about six years.