Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A Question of Damage Limitation

I came across an interesting story in Bus and Coach magazine the other day which must have slightly chilled the hearts of our bus manufacturers.

The author reckoned that bus operators are adapting to our brave new age of austerity, stagnant business growth and public sector cuts by putting off vehicle replacements and instead making do and mending wherever possible.

He quoted numerous examples of the lengths that operators are now going to to reduce costs – such as using repair techniques more familiar to car repair shops to, for example, remove dents in a body panel whilst its still attached to the vehicle instead of just taking it off and fitting a new one.

Instead of replacing broken plastic parts, some are being welded back together and given a new life with the benefit of a hot glue gun.

Of course, one of the upsides of this is that operators don’t have to keep their vehicles out of revenue-earning service for days on end whilst they wait for new parts to arrive. More worrying for the big bus manufacturers, however, is the growing interest in refurbishment over replacement.

Companies who specialise in such work are reporting a lot of interest from operators, with new seats and seat coverings apparently a popular way of giving an older vehicle a timely refresh. Other refurbishment work typically includes replacing the passenger saloon’s headlining, re-trimming the side panels and replacing or renewing floor coverings.

Of course, this is only putting off the inevitable and operators are only too well aware of the diminishing returns they get from hanging onto older, less reliable, less efficient and less popular vehicles. But many of them can probably suspend their replacement programme for longer than most manufacturers would like, and that will hurt them.

Quite how long the can bear the hurt remains to be seen.

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