Solo pair for Mullany’s

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Watford based Mullany’s Coaches has received a pair of 9.7m Optare Solo SRs for use on local services. Each of the buses has 37 Ster seats, a fold out wheelchair ramp and a Mercedes-Benz OM904LA 154bhp engine matched to an Allison 2100 Series five-speed automatic transmission.
Mullany’s Coaches General Manager, Tim Rampling, said, ‘We chose the Solo SR because of our good experience with earlier models and its reputation for fuel efficiency. The new SR model has also got great eye-catching kerb appeal and we’re already getting positive comments from drivers and passengers about what some have described as the “wow” factor! From an operational point of view we are always seeking to cut our costs and along with good fuel returns from the Mercedes engine, the Optare EcoDrive system will also help us by encouraging better driver performance, particularly in ways that improve fuel efficiency. This should also bring significant passenger benefits in terms of a more comfortable and safer travelling experience.’

Optare supplied the Solos.

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New Optare CEO

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Optare Group Ltd has appointed Enrico Vassallo as its new CEO. Following his graduation in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Genoa, Vassallo joined the Iveco Group in 1996 and has since held a number of senior management positions covering purchasing, manufacturing, and overseas sales of commercial vehicles and components in Africa, Australasia and South America. His involvement in the bus industry began in 2005 with his appointment as the Iveco Irisbus Sales and Marketing Director for Africa and the Middle East. Two years later he became General Manager for Irisbus Italia, where he was responsible for an operation employing 750 people designing and selling buses and coaches. In 2011 he moved to Brazil to take up a post as President of FPT Industrial, which manufactures commercial vehicle components at two plants and has 680 employees. Enrico replaces PG Nilsson, who has been the Interim CEO since 1 January 2013. Glenn Saint will continue in his role as Deputy CEO.

Optare’s Chairman, John Fickling, said, ‘I am very pleased to welcome Enrico to Optare. He brings a wealth of international sales experience in the bus industry gained in several of the key markets that we are targeting as part of our strategic aim of developing a stronger export business. This will significantly strengthen the leadership team at Optare by combining his considerable international automotive management and sales experience with Glenn Saint’s wide knowledge of, and high standing in, the British bus industry. On behalf of the Board I’d like to thank PG Nilsson for his assistance in steering the business in the first nine months of 2013.’

Enrico Vassallo said, ‘I am looking forward to the challenge of building on the strong reputation that Optare has as an innovator in the design, development and manufacture of buses and in particular in the field of low carbon vehicles. In that quest I shall be relying on the skills and talents of the Optare team. I also see great opportunities to use my own experience to help expand Optare’s presence in overseas markets, where it is already achieving some encouraging results with support from Ashok Leyland.’

Six Slimline Solos for SPT

ImageStrathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) has received delivery of six 7.2m Slimline Solos. The single deckers each have 21 Ster 6MS seats, two tip up seats and a Mercedes-Benz OM904LA Euro5 127bhp engine coupled to an Allison 1000 Series five-speed transmission. They also each have a full Actia telematics package, which monitors the vehicles’ system’s performance and provides remote diagnostics. It supports the Optare EcoDrive dashboard that measures driver performance and provides real time feedback to the driver. The package also includes an incident alert system that enables drivers to press a button so the CCTV automatically records footage onto the hard drive. The vehicles will be operated by Henderson Travel.

SPT Assistant Chief Executive, Eric Stewart, said, ‘These buses are finished to the highest standard and I’m delighted that our passengers will benefit from these excellent facilities. Their low access capability means that they can be used by people of all mobility levels and the in-built CCTV system provides great peace of mind for those on board.’

Pictured are Optare Sales Director, John Horn; MD of Henderson Travel, John Henderson; SPT Assistant Chief Executive, Eric Stewart and Regional Sales Manager, Optare, John Hartley.

The buses were supplied directly by Optare.

Optare heading towards profitability

In its preliminary results for the year ended 31 March 2013, Optare earned revenue of £75.9m, a growth of 6% over the 15 month period to 31 March 2012. Labour costs were down at 7.6% of revenue, a reduction of 6%. It ended the year with a market share of 36% in the eight to 13 tonne segment, which it states as its primary market. The results show a net loss of £7.4m compared to a loss of £13.4m in the previous period, an improvement of 45%.

During the year, the 11.7m Versa, Metrocity and Bonito were launched. The full benefits of these new products are expected to be seen in the 2013-14 financial year. Their launch is expected to offset the risks and help deliver volume and revenue. On 31 March 2013, Optare’s order book stood at £12.2m, whilst the current order book stands at £20.2m.

Now it has consolidated onto its new site, Optare believes it is time to deliver profitability, driven by the product pipeline, which includes a new double decker and other new vehicles for the export market in 2014. The Board believes the UK market will be flat for the near future, but has identified growing opportunities in the Middle East, south east Asia and African countries.

Interim CEO, PG Nilsson, said, ‘Despite challenging market conditions over the last twelve months, I am pleased to report that we are now seeing the positive rewards resulting from consolidating the manufacturing sites and the significant investment in our new facilities. We have made considerable progress in supply chain cost reduction, implementing manufacturing efficiencies and further improving the quality of our products, and we continue to focus on our processes to drive continuous improvement. We are confident that we have built solid foundations for stability and growth to meet future challenges, secure in the knowledge that we have the support and backing of Ashok Leyland.’

Versa makes savings in New Zealand

ImageAn 11.7m Optare Versa that has just joined the fleet of New Zealand operator, Reesby Buses, is expected to generate significant savings. Owner Dave Reesby said, ‘With a gross weight of only 12 tonnes for a 44 seater city bus, compared with around 14 tonnes for all other makes operating in the country, the 11.7m Versa attracts a saving of 13 cents per km in Government imposed road user charges.’

Reesby’s Versa is fitted with a six-cylinder 6.7 litre Cummins ISBe 201bhp Euro5 engine matched to an Allison five-speed automatic transmission with lock-up convertor. It also has 44 Esteban Civic V3 seats, including three tip-ups in the wheelchair/buggy space. A further 17 standing passengers can also be carried. Mobitec LED destination equipment has been specified.

Dave Reesby said, ‘We’re currently evaluating the performance and operating costs of the Versa by using it on transfers of conference delegates in and around Rotorua on New Zealand’s North Island, which is a major conference centre and also the location of our main base. Shortly it will be going on to a rural service between Katikati and Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty involving a one way trip of 60km, which it will make six times a day, so the 13 cents per km savings will soon add up! It will replace a 10.4m Versa on the route. The Versas, of which we already have two, have had great acceptance from the public leading to increased passenger numbers and a need for more capacity.’

Optare supplied the bus.

Another Solo SR for Alba

ImagePenrith based Alba Travel has added another Optare Solo SR to its fleet for use on a new contract, the X33 Lakeland Explorer. The bus is powered by a Euro5 Mercedes-Benz OM 904LA 154bhp engine matched to an Allison 2100 Series five-speed automatic transmission. Specifications include Mobitec LED destination equipment, a reversing camera and 37 E-Leather trimmed Rescroft CT Lite seats.
Optare Sales Director, John Horn, said, ‘We’re delighted to be again supplying Alba Travel with our Solo SR model following good experience with those we supplied in 2010. This attractively styled and compact bus – and particularly the narrower SlimLine version – is well suited to the type of services that this highly regarded family firm runs in Cumbria, where roads can be quite narrow and traffic heavy during the summer months. Its easy access also makes it ideal for use by people of all levels of mobility.’

The vehicle was supplied directly by Optare.

Optare offered £1.5m

Optare has received a conditional offer of £1.5m in funds from the fourth round of the government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF). The RGF is provided through the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) to support projects and programmes to create economic growth and sustain private sector employment. The bus manufacturer is one of 102 companies and intermediaries that have been selected to receive a conditional offer and which were whittled down from a list of 309 applications. Another familiar name amongst the selected bidders is Vix Technology (UK) Ltd, the transport solutions specialist.

Optare Deputy Chief Executive, Glenn Saint, said, ‘We are delighted to have received this conditional offer of funds which is directly linked to our programme of developing new products for export markets. The funding, if received, will assist in our export sales drive through boosting our research and development capabilities, and is likely to lead to more jobs at our Sherburn plant and increased overall security for the business. We’ve been very clear that our strategy is to use our market leading technology as a base for new products aimed at export markets in Europe and further afield. With the support of the global marketing resources of our parent company, Ashok Leyland, we can grow our export penetration thus lessening our dependence on the highly competitive British bus market.’