Manufacturing Since 1949
We take a look at Marcopolo S.A. and the company’s design, manufacture and business collaboration to supply bus bodies to the South African market
Writer: Marcus Kääpä | Project Manager: Ryan Gray
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both global and national industries have been hit hard by reduction in demand and the adaptation required to continue safe operations across workplaces and sites.
South African manufacturing, for example, decreased by approximately 3.5 percent in November 2020 as compared to the same time in 2019. Despite this, the beginning of 2021 has shown that many companies have adjusted to the challenges of COVID-19, and even though the pandemic is still present, these businesses are moving forward with endurance during this “new normal”.
Having adapted to the new reality of the industry, and continuing to supply South Africa in the manufacturing space, is Marcopolo S.A.
Marcopolo S.A. is a Brazilian company founded in 1949 that actively participates in the development and implementation of solutions for the collective transport of passengers in the international market. The company’s product line covers coaches, city bus, commuter and micro bus models.
Headquartered in Caxias do Sul, Brazil, Marcopolo S.A. has three production units in the country and 13 abroad, existing as one of the world’s biggest bus body builders. It continually invests in its improvement, technology and expansion, being considered a world reference in bus bodies with more than 400,000 units produced in total. Among the company’s core principles are those of teamwork and respect for its employees and associated organisations and individuals, valuing diversity and the construction of respectful professional relationships.
As a 100 percent subsidiary of Marcopolo S.A., Marcopolo South Africa Ltd (MASA) continues to replicate the group’s domestic successes in one of its key global markets.
“With factories on five continents, the vehicles produced by Marcopolo S.A. drive on the roads of over one hundred countries,” Lucas Gabardo, General Manager for MASA, tells us proudly. “The South African operation now completes its 20th anniversary and is proud to contribute to the socio-economic development of the region in which it operates, promoting investments and providing hundreds of jobs that encompass its entire supply chain. We serve mainly the right-hand drive (RHD) markets of the sub-Saharan Africa region with a complete product portfolio that meets all requirements of our customers.”
A core part of MASA’s vision is to be key providers and enablers in the sustainable mobility solutions space. The company strives to become the preferred bus body builder and manufacturer in Africa, leading with quality and an innovative product portfolio. MASA ensures that at all stages of production and manufacturing there is the highest level of professional treatment as well as endeavouring to be the fastest solution provider on the market.
“What differentiates us from our competitors is our people,” Gabardo says. “We have passion for what we do, and our values are our motivators. We always operate with excellence to exceed the expectations of our customers. Through teamwork we deliver products that are a world reference in terms of design, safety, quality and innovation. The ethics and integrity of each one of our collaborators allows us to have the confidence of our customers and partners.
“When we talk about our products, it is essential to remember that Marcopolo S.A., and each of its subsidiaries, tests extensively all the vehicles that go to market. With a team of approximately 300 engineers, durability, safety and reliability tests are conducted and have top priority. We invest heavily in technology and innovation driven by our vision to be protagonist in mobility solutions in a sustainable way.”
The consistency of testing and safety, as well as the enduring high-quality echoes throughout all levels of Marcopolo S.A.’s manufacturing operations around the globe, and spurs the company forward in the market. The company is currently presenting the launch of the most awaited models in the national and international intercity bus markets - Generation 8.
“The new line represents a breakthrough in innovation for the brand, with unique standards of safety, comfort, connectivity, handling and ergonomics, for both the passengers and drivers,” Gabardo informs us. “Composed of the traditional models such as the Viaggio and Paradiso lines, Generation 8 was developed for the chassis models of the biggest automakers and, from August onwards, they will leave the assembly line at the Ana Rech plant, in Caxias do Sul. Initially focused on the Brazilian market, its arrival in the African continent is expected in the next few years.”
Generation 8 stands out in the market due to its striking appearance. It follows the Marcopolo S.A. design DNA that values the fluidity of lines in a clean and modern design to convey a sense of streamlining and speed. The design of the project was carefully thought out to benefit operators, drivers and passengers, and was a collaborative effort made by the design, engineering, and industrial operations teams at Marcopolo S.A.
“In the South African operation we have recently finalised the delivery of a batch of 100 units Torino G7 to our customer PUTCO, one of the largest commuter operators in South Africa,” Gabardo tells us. “We at MASA are honoured to participate in this great project, and we give our special thanks to Mr. Franco Pisapia, Executive Director and Mr. Harry Makitla, Technical Executive, for their trust in the company and for guiding and supporting us during the development of this product.”
Always concerned with customer satisfaction, Marcopolo S.A. also recently launched a new model - Torino S. The primary objective of this model is its ease of maintenance, and it is presently available for Mercedes-Benz OF1723, Scania F95, and Hino 500 bus chassis.
Partnerships and Collaboration
Besides the fruitful partnerships formed with Scania and Mercedes-Benz, now, together with Hino Motors, the Japanese manufacturer of commercial vehicles and diesel engines belonging to the Toyota Group, MASA have signed a partnership for the development of a new model of urban bus focused on the needs of African countries. The goal is to expand the presence of both companies in the region with more robust and efficient products, affordable purchase costs and a wide network of technical assistance and after-sales service.
“The partnership unites the competitive differentials of both brands,” Gabardo states. “The flexibility, market knowledge and production capacity of MASA, with the chassis technology and broad network of 65 Hino dealers present in the continent.”
The end result, the impressive Hino 500, is modern and robust with low maintenance costs and a high level of reliability and quality that MASA ensures for its customers.
This level of quality would not be possible without Marcopolo S.A.’s supply chain partners, and of course, its hard-working employees.
“It is important to be able to differentiate yourself from the competition and being aligned with your good suppliers is always a step ahead,” Gabardo elaborates. “Strengthening relationships with suppliers also means getting to know each one’s processes and way of working better. With an open and frank dialogue with our partners, we can better organise our production and sales chain, and consequently a positive impact on costs and customer service.
“On top of this, our team is made of people committed to doing their best. We value and respect each one of our employees, and we enhance their skills and knowledge through constant training. MASA also encourages its people to pursue better results every day and achieve company goals.”
The Years Ahead
For the rest of 2021, MASA is looking forward to a market upturn. The company has high hopes that an accelerated vaccine rollout will consequently lead to improved tourism and greater bus use and sales across South Africa. In line with this optimism, MASA is aiming to broaden its export base and exploring new possibilities in the market.
“We will also be looking at new sources of revenue and diversification, focusing on the sales of parts and components and the services provided to our customers, such as refurbishment of units and accident repairs. We are also open to discuss new partnerships and business possibilities to collaborate and develop mutually beneficial relationships in the market.”