Pune: The Indian unit of Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz plans to roll out a 45-seater luxury inter-city bus after having acquired the mandatory certification for the model from the Automotive Research Association of India (Arai), said a senior executive at the venture familiar with the matter. He didn’t want to be identified because the details haven’t been officially announced.
The Arai director could not be reached for comment.
Separately, a vendor associated with the project said the company has already made 20 units of the bus.
“Trial production will commence in May and plans are to start commercial production in September,” said the vendor, adding that the company is currently assessing the market potential.
An Arai certification saying the vehicle meets Indian safety and emission norms is required before vehicles can be sold.
Suhas Kadlaskar, director of corporate affairs for the company, said it plans to start making a rear-engine bus built on a chassis, which will be imported in a completely-knocked-down form from Germany and assembled at its Pune plant. However, he declined to give further details of the model that it plans to launch in the market or the total volume it plans to produce in India.
Kadlaskar said the company will start assembling the chassis at Pune in the second or third quarter of this year and said the bus body will be built by its local partner, the Jalandhar-based Sutlej Motors Ltd.
“If all goes well, we plan to start production from our new plant at Chakan by the first quarter of 2009”, he said. The company is currently building a new plant on a 100-acre land in Maharashtra’s auto hub where it plans to also manufacture its entire range of cars, the Actros truck range and buses.
The plant will produce 5,000 premium Mercedes Benz E-Class, S-Class and C-Class cars every year.
The truck maker will join other global firms, such as Germany’s MAN and Spain’s Marcopolo, which plan to bring products to fill the gap for good quality buses in India where a growing network of new highways that connect major cities is increasing passenger traffic.
The Indian market leader in the segment, Volvo, has teamed up with a local body builder, Jaico Automobiles, and recently announced plans to manufacture 1,000 bus bodies annually.