Ilesbus eases its way slowly into the UK market

Ilesbus is one of the large number of Turkish minicoach and midicoach manufacturers. It has big plans for the UK, including absorption of the former Swansea Coachworks name in the medium term

Part of the range is a coachbuilt midi on the 7,200kg GVW Iveco Daily

There’s a new name on the mini and midicoach market: Ilesbus. It has big plans for its presence in the UK with a line-up that it says will come to include vehicles based on Mercedes-Benz, MAN and Iveco chassis from Vito and Sprinter size up to 38-seaters.

Ilesbus is a Turkish converter and bodybuilder. It has a recently-formed UK subsidiary, the ownership of which is split 50/50 between the family behind Ilesbus and Gary and Creighton Jones, owners of Swansea Coachworks.

In time, the Swansea Coachworks business will be consumed by Ilesbus UK. The Swansea Coachworks name will fade out, although Gary explains that operators of its products will continue to receive support for as long as is required.

The most significant change will see conversion work moved from South Wales to Turkey. What will happen to the site in Swansea is not yet finalised, but what is known is that a showroom will be established in the region with space to hold stock vehicles and spare parts.

Good reception

Ilesbus UK represents a significant increase in ambition over Swansea Coachworks. A handful of vehicles from the Turkish manufacturer have been quietly placed into service here already, and the response to them has been good, says Gary.

“Initially Ilesbus was to be a bolt-on to complement the Swansea Coachworks business. We put a number of Ilesbus minicoach conversions into the market and based on feedback, we quickly realised that moving the operation wholesale to become Ilesbus UK was the best policy.”

Ilesbus UK is a completely different entity to Swansea Coachworks. Ilesbus’ plant in Bursa is skilled at delivering quality products for a competitive price, Gary adds. “Ilesbus approached us and asked us to get involved. I believe that is the way forward. Many competitors’ vehicles already in the small coach market are produced outside the UK.”

Based on the Sprinter is the top-end Ilesbus Renaissance conversion

A high standard of backup is promised, with parts held here for all of the models that Ilesbus UK will offer. Mobile technical support will be provided, along with a 24/7 contact number and, in time, service locations around the country.

All of that represents a departure from the Swansea Coachworks model. Gary is confident that with the Turkish manufacturer behind it, Ilesbus’ UK operation will prosper. But what products are coming our way?

Sprinter at heart

Mercedes-Benz is at the heart of what Ilesbus UK will offer. A variety of Sprinter-based models will be in the line-up; that range starts with a school bus-type variant and goes to an extended super-luxury version that is built to order and comes with as many toys as the buyer may like.

Ilesbus is approved by Mercedes-Benz and it carries out around 200 Sprinter conversions per year. All but a handful of them go to markets outside Turkey. It is either in the process of, or has already, established supply networks in various western European countries.

Meeting the high-end requirement is the Renaissance. Although it is converted in Bursa, all Sprinters for the UK market are sourced via the Mercedes-Benz dealer network here. As a result, they come with the standard three-year chassis warranty.

“We purchase the vehicles here and they touch the ground in the UK. They are then moved by truck to Turkey for conversion, and returned via the same process, so they have delivery mileage on them when collected by the customer,” says Gary.

Converted Sprinters come with a COC, so when they arrive back in the UK all they need is a PDI and registering, and they can then enter service. The most distinctive element of the Renaissance is its side window styling. Double-glazing is fitted as standard, and the model can also be extended and equipped with a coach-style rear.

All of  Ilesbus’ vehicles are available at very high specifications, it says

For weight purposes, 19 will be the maximum number of passengers carried on any of the Ilesbus UK Sprinters. It has also sold the last of the outgoing models that it had available, but Gary is hopeful that the first Renaissance on the new Sprinter will be displayed at Euro Bus Expo (EBE) this autumn.

“We have six long wheelbase, 5,500kg GVW new Sprinters promised for delivery in late August. As long as that date does not slip, we expect to have one at EBE. Extra-long wheelbase models are expected to start coming from Mercedes-Benz later in the year,” adds Gary.

The Renaissance is standardised on GRL seats with a wide variety of fabrics and colours available. A glazed roof is also part of the options list, while all painting is handled in two booths within the Bursa factory.

Iveco midi too

Complementing the Sprinter range is a coachbuilt body on the 7,200kg Iveco Daily chassis called the SI that will seat up to 29 passengers.

Like the Sprinter-based Renaissance, the SI is available with various optional extras to suit the buyer. Ilesbus UK has no intent to exceed 29 seats as a result of luggage considerations, but it is open to downseating.

“Some customers have told us that a Sprinter is too small for their needs, and so they put between 16 and 21 seats in a Daily. That’s particularly the case in Scotland, where golfing parties demand a very high specification,” says Gary.

Rear air suspension is standard on the SI, and it is expected that Iveco’s Hi-Matic gearbox will be specified by most buyers. Ilesbus UK is in the process of establishing a relationship with Iveco’s UK bus arm.

Bigger still

At the top of the Ilesbus UK range is a coachbuilt body that will offer between 30 and 38 seats. The model will be built on both Mercedes-Benz and MAN front-engined chassis in right-hand drive form. It may also follow on the Iveco Eurocargo underframe – a first for the UK.

Conversion work previously undertaken in Swansea will move to Turkey

This as-yet unnamed largest of Ilesbus UK’s models will come on 12,000kg GVW chassis from all of the manufacturers that are involved.

It is a complete midicoach. It does not look like a truck-based vehicle. We are not yet 100% certain that it will be offered on Iveco chassis, but it definitely will be on the Mercedes-Benz and MAN product,” says Gary.

Anticipating a lot

Gary promises a lot of the Ilesbus UK business. Converting and manufacturing vehicles in Turkey gives an obvious benefit in terms of labour costs, and other companies have proved that the country has the necessary expertise to build high-quality products.

The prospect of a showroom, demonstrators and stock vehicles will appeal to some buyers, and the promise of a strong aftersales network with a dedicated manager will also be welcome. As he says, it is a different company to Swansea Coachworks.

miniplus has not yet had the opportunity to drive or examine the Ilesbus range, but in a major difference to some other converters that have spoken about coming here, Ilesbus already has product in the market. Besides five Sprinter- and Daily-based models, it also has three Vito conversions with customers.

“Some of those vehicles have been on the road for 18 months and we have had no issues with them. The product is solid and Ilesbus is an established name that does a good job,” he concludes.

In an ever more competitive market, Ilesbus may be another worthwhile addition to what is a buyer’s world.