I was talking to Derek Brumpton of Irizar UK recently. His family used to be coach operators and he told me how, in the early 1980s, his father had said to the salesman delivering his new Plaxton bodied Bedford, that it would be his last new coach because you couldn’t make money with coaches costing any more than he had paid. I can’t remember the exact figure but it was under £40,000. Since then we’ve seen new coach prices rocket through the seemingly insurmountable barriers of £100,000, £150,000 and £200,000 with double deck coaches around the £400,000 mark.
In the past week I’ve been looking at a couple of coaches that in current price terms would be considered entry level. One was the Euro6 Volvo B8R Plaxton Leopard which retails at £215,000; though I believe you can still get a Euro5 B9R version for marginally under £200,000. The other was the new Yutong TC12 which retails at £178,500.
Both are attractive vehicles that drive very well and give passengers a comfortable travelling experience. They are different concepts: the B8R Leopard is a 59-seater with no toilet, a long wheelbase and an overall length of 12.8m, weighing less than 12 tonnes. The TC12 is a 12m 51-seat tourer with toilet weighing 13.8 tonnes. The leopard is supplied through two of the best known names in the UK coach industry while the TC12 comes from a manufacturer many will never have heard of and a dealer relatively new to the market but with a growing reputation for quality support.
When Derek’s dad bought his Bedford Plaxton, the last of a long line of that combination, he would have had confidence that it was a good long term bet, though it wasn’t long afterwards that Bedford withdrew from the market. Plaxton and Volvo have demonstrated the ability to evolve as the market changes and the Leopard and B8R are the latest evidence of that, whereas Yutong hadn’t even built its first coach when Derek’s dad gave up coaching altogether.
By the time the two vehicles you’ll be reading about in coming issues of Bus & Coach Buyer reach the end of their days the industry will no doubt have changed again. The price of an entry level coach, impossible as it now seems, may well be over £400,000. There’ll have been more changes in the manufacturing industry and maybe some of our coaches won’t even be running on diesel.
It all makes deciding what to buy and whether to buy a difficult challenge, and as the figures grow so does the difficulty.
Whatever happens, I’m unlikely to be still writing about it all, but then again, given the way that the pension age keeps creeping up, maybe I will?