FIAA Madrid: Green shoots showing

There was a positive air at last week’s biennial FIAA show in Madrid, with the good selection of coaches and buses on view perhaps indicating that the Spanish market is over the recession. Some interesting technology was also on show. Tim Deakin reports.

The FIAA show in Madrid returned for 2014 last week, and while it was, as always, tilted strongly toward the Iberian market there were a number of vehicles present which will be of interest to UK operators.

In typical Spanish style, show days start slowly before visitor numbers build strongly around lunchtime. Many of those present were taking a close look at Scania’s stand, where among the three vehicles on show were two Euro 6 coaches.

One was an Irizar i6-bodied two-axle K450EB and the other a Touring, with bodywork built in China by Higer. Both are powered by Scania’s 12.7-litre DC13 engine, but most notably the variant installed in the Touring, rated at 410bhp, does not require exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) to reach Euro 6.

The 450bhp version of the DC13, in the K450EB, retains EGR, as does the 490bhp variant. However, perusal of Scania’s literature shows that the difference between the 410 and 450’s torque levels is minor (just 200Nm), suggesting that unless operators really need the additional 40bhp it may be a wise decision to go for the 410bhp rating and remove EGR from the equation entirely.

Also not requiring EGR to reach Euro 6 is the nine-litre DC09 at its 320 and 360bhp ratings, with the latter having found favour among many UK coach buyers. At the DC09’s sub-300bhp settings, used in Scania’s Euro 6 diesel bus range, EGR is retained.

Tri-axel Irizar i3-bodied B8RLE on Volvo's stand
Tri-axel Irizar i3-bodied B8RLE on Volvo’s stand

Coming to the UK

Almost all the Spanish manufacturers had prominent stands, among them Alsasua-based Sunsundegui, which introduced its distinctive SC7 body two years ago. This year, besides a pair of SC7s, two additional vehicles were present; one is definitely coming to the UK, and the other may do.

Joining the ever-growing number of mid-range offerings is the all-new SC5. As shown in Madrid, the SC5 is a 59-seater with no toilet built on Volvo chassis, and is relatively basic inside.

Unlike some others in this sector of the market, however, the 13m long, 3.5m high SC5 has a continental door and good under-floor luggage capacity, making it a “multi-purpose” coach, says Export Sales Director Alex Irizar.

“We are increasingly seeing that customers are looking for cost-effective, multi-purpose coaches,” he explains. “The UK is a very good market for us and the SC5 will be offered there, first on the B8R chassis and later, if demand warrants, the B11R.”

Also a possibility for the UK is the SB3, which is a low-height, basic coach from the Irizar i4 mould. As shown in Madrid it is on a B8R chassis and has a step-mounted wheelchair lift at the centre door. It seats 51 and is 3.3m high; Alex says that while no decision has been reached, it too will be offered here should demand warrant.

Gas-powered low-floor Sprinter shown by Polish builder Auto Cuby
Gas-powered low-floor Sprinter shown by Polish builder Auto Cuby

Capacity kings

One further Sunsundegui was shown on Volvo’s stand, an SC7 on a tri-axle B11R chassis. This tied with a Noge Titanium-bodied MAN 26.480 for the honour of highest capacity single-deck coach at the show, with 71 seats shoe-horned into both 15m bodies.

They also share surprisingly high specification levels, with the SC7 including opulent half-leather seats. Both fall down in one obvious area: legroom. There is little to no personal space at all once the seat in front is reclined, although lower capacity options are available.

The Noge coach is the first Titanium completed on Euro 6 chassis and trumped the tri-axle SC7 by also including a toilet. Its water tank is mounted in one of the ski lockers to free up space in the cavernous main lockers, and a very high specification includes a Lavazza espresso machine.

Although the Titanium shown is mounted on MAN chassis, Director Marc Perera says that if a UK operator required it could also be built on a Mercedes-Benz or Scania platform. “We would require advance orders from the UK to build the Titanium in right-hand drive, but it is not a complicated operation to do so.”

Scania Touring includes engine which doesn't require EGR for Euro 6
Scania Touring includes engine which doesn’t require EGR for Euro 6

Upbeat Irizar

Predictably prominent was Irizar, showing five vehicles on its own stand with a sixth displayed by Volvo.

The PB, i6 and i4 coach bodies were displayed on MAN, Mercedes-Benz and Scania chassis respectively, and despite suggestions that a new model is under development, Export Director Gotzon Gomez says that no additions to its range are planned soon.

He also explains that the 10.8m version of Irizar’s i6 integral, on show at Euro Bus Expo this week, is proving popular and that orders have already been taken from the UK. “Irizar UK is performing very well, and we have a good, focused team there. The order recently placed by Ellisons for three i6s is further indication that we are playing in the Champions League of coaching.”

Also displayed were two i3-bodied Volvo B8RLEs, a two-axle model on Irizar’s stand and a tri-axle by Volvo. Significant interest was generated by the all-electric i2e, with Gotzon adding that in 2015 the manufacturer will have the capacity to build 60, although it expects that such a level of customer demand is a number of years away.

“The i2e will be available in right-hand drive form, and we have spoken to a number of operators and authorities in the UK about it. By 2025, we are expecting most new city buses to be electric.”

Spain’s other coach manufacturers also entered a strong showing in Madrid, with Beulas displaying a large number of vehicles, the largest of which was a Jewel-bodied Scania K490EB double-decker.

Strong showing of its coach range from Irizar
Strong showing of its coach range from Irizar

Other Iberian delights

Its Aura, displayed on Scania and Volvo chassis, further demonstrates the Spanish manufacturers’ expertise as masters of maximising capacity, accommodating 59 passengers in a 12.9m, two-axle layout.

Also on Scania’s K490EB chassis was Ayats’ Eclipse, and in a muted showing from the Arbcies builder, it was complemented only by an integral open-top double-decker bus, powered by Mercedes-Benz’s OM936 engine rated at 300bhp.

Castrosua’s stand included several coaches and buses, most impressive of which was the Stellae high-floor coach body on Volvo B11R chassis, which again can accommodate up to 59 seats on two axles.

In the minicoach sector, a variety of predominantly Mercedes-Benz Sprinters were on show, including two powered by CNG.

One of these, a low-floor bus on Polish builder Auto Cuby’s stand, complemented a number of minicoaches, including its VIP Line, an exceptionally highly-specified vehicle which has an aura of a Presidential limousine in its passenger compartment.

Other minibuses and minicoaches were displayed by several Spanish builders including Ferqui, UNVI and Car-Bus, with the latter having agreed a joint venture with Irish convertor EVM to bring the 20-seat Sprinter-based Grand Tourer to the UK.