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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Akash Passey's exclusive interview for us!

We recently had an exclusive interview with Mr Akash Passey, the Managing Director for Volvo Buses India Pvt Ltd. Volvo buses have completely changed the way we Indians looked at bus travel in India. Here is the interview...

1. How has the response to the new B9R been?
The response to the Volvo B9R, which we now term Volvo 9400 6x2 has been very good. We have been getting continuous feedback from our customers and our team. The feedback around the key aspects of comfort, long-distance drive, fuel efficiency and other aspects related to transport economy and passenger feedback is promising.

2. Have you thought about introducing a cheaper variant of the B9R with the same B7R engine?
The current choice of using the 9 litre engine was a considered decision when we weighed the product profile and its application. This includes various aspects – drivability, fuel, longevity, after-sales, our product strategies etc. Following its introduction we have no reason yet to consider changing this product profile. Also, the price, while important, is only one component in the entire Life Cycle Cost and we think we have a good solution for our customers here.

3. Volvo hasn’t penetrated the northern and eastern markets much. Any particular reasons for this?
Volvo Buses commenced its operations in India with a ‘step-by-step’ approach, starting in the South first, expanding to West and thereon moving our presence into the East and North regions of India. So, South and West did get a higher exposure to begin with. Private Operators in the North largely operate in the private tourism segment which is not as large as the inter-city coach segment that operators cater to in South and West. The inter-city segment in North is today mainly catered to by local state corporations who are relatively more focused on general segments rather than the AC segment, for now In East, the road network is a hindrance to development

4. Volvo’s policy of training drivers for running the buses has been positive. But are operators sticking to it?
At an overall level, yes. Driver training is one important support to protect their investment and customers realize that. A driver could account for 15 % of the fuel efficiency and any mature operator sees it in his own benefit to use a Volvo trained driver.

Also, the drivers operate within a motivating environment – a driver-friendly environment and with a driveline that is responsive. Everyone likes to give their best and these circumstances make the drivers want to do even better. With every bus we sell, we train 3 or more customer drivers and we now also have refresher training programs.

The aim is to make good drivers even better. And this aim is not a one-off effort. The culture of defensive, economic and safe driving will get deeper and wide- spread as we continue take these steps. We are aware that just as we seek to change the way people behave we must also work to change the circumstances they operate in. This of course, involves more stakeholders than only us. We will surely see the importance, status and value of a good driver increase in time to come.
5. On some routes, we have seen that operators aren’t taking care of the buses. For example, Neeta’s Mumbai-Pune B7Rs are in poor condition. Water leaks in monsoons, the buses smoke and interiors are in shambles. Shouldn’t Volvo take notice of this as it gives a bad name to the brand
We do our best to influence this through various means – service agreements, our support network and various other support solutions. This year we have also started with new offers on refurbishment of old buses and hope to attract more and more customers. On the other hand, starting this year, we established a new company – Volvo Buses India Private Limited, which is now the firstcompany singularly focused on bus transport solutions. Furthermore, we are now unique in India, building both the chassis and body within Volvo, and not outsourcing the body. In January, we inaugurated the Volvo Bus Body plant. As a complete bus company in India this also means new standards in terms of the total transport solution we offer and the quality standards we set in the industry. With one stop shop concept being reinforced now, we feel the general maintenance level on the body will improve even further now

These are efforts which will allow us be closer to our customers & influence the market. Of course, the more the customer and market demands the more we can & will deliver.

6. How has your stand been against non-Volvo operators using the Volvo logo to lure customers
We do not accept such practises. Especially where the use of Volvo logo or name is directed at misleading passengers. Our legal department is active in following up on these cases. We have successfully managed to stop many but are aware that this may continue. We will continue to pursue our efforts to protect the Volvo brand and our trademark to the fullest.

7. Do we see any new launches this year?
Unfortunately, we never will comment on forward looking figures and introductions. But Volvo has a wide global product program and we have a big role to playwith most successful city bus transportation systems around the world. So, you can expect us to continue to create, influence and respond to our customer demands and keep taking our next steps forward. But its not possible to say ‘what, when, how and if or if not’!

8. (this question is purely for enthusiast readers of our blog). The B7R’s company claimed top speed is 103. However we have seen these buses run at much higher speeds. How much can they actually do on the speedometer? And what about the B9R?
The speeds vary from country to country depending on local regulations.
Depending on the country the product can of course touch much higher speeds. In India we very much encourage operators to restrict speed as it adds to the fuel efficiency for the operator and most importantly adds to safety risks on the road

With the only company to introduce electronic engines in the bus segment in India , we are able to adjust speed limits on operators request at a short notice

9. What is the average fuel consumption for both the B7R and B9R on open highways (devoid of hills)
The average fuel consumption is a very difficult figure to define in a commercial vehicle in this case. One can witness figures around 3kmpl and you can hear of figures higher than this too. On the other hand if one picked up specific drivers, fleet managers and terrain you can witness some fantastic figures, either way. So, we will never give a specific figure yet but can only indicate so. With our customers, where we understand their specific circumstances, we would share this data, but rarely speak about it in general!

10. Websites like have transformed the way we can book bus tickets. What is your take on these?
Eventually, the total solution to passengers and those affected by transportation lies in the hand of all stakeholders – manufacturers, authorities, customers, service companies, passengers etc. It’s very important that we see good quality initiatives and high degree of collaboration across the board. Initiatives like these are very good and most welcome.

11. Do you support new individuals with a passion for Volvo buses and would want to be a Volvo bus operator?
Passon is a very key component in anything one does and so does it apply to the transport business. But we would leave it to the individuals to gauge the viability and implementation of their business models in the market. It’s something which a fleet operator or the enterpeneur can estimate best. As advisors we of course, are always there to put together the pieces related to the application of our buses.

12. What have been the latest routes that Volvo buses have explored? What about the longest one. Is the Paulo’s Ahmedabad-Panaji route?
Volvo buses now run across all popular routes in India, the latest addition has been up North in Uttar Pradesh where Lucknow is connected to various destinations within and outside the state, through Volvo buses

There are many one of routes which are long enough but a well known stable route with a high population of Volvo buses is the Mumbai-Bangalore route in which operators cover over 1000 kms per day

13. Lastly, what is the base price for both the B7R and B9R (ex-factory)
At the present moment 9400 6x2 has an introductory price of 85.0 lacs ex factory and 9400 4x2 has a price of 72 lacs. These prices are based ex factory on our standard specification

A Rs 75 lakh bus goes up in flame

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