Ten years ago buses traveling the highways of China were mostly of foreign
manufacture, especially made-in-Japan coaches, but today the country's passenger
transportation needs are met by vehicles engineered and made at home.
As well, in many locales outside the nation, Chinese buses have become a
familiar sight on the road.
One is the small Middle Eastern country of Qatar, where there were only 200
buses before the arrival of Higer coaches.
Some 800 Higer buses now transport Qataris to school and around the capital
city Doha, and also on short- and long-distance trips. The name of Suzhou
Kinglong, maker of Higer buses, is now familiar symbol of passenger
transportation in the wealthy Arabian country.
In a January survey by the Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde, Cuban bus
drivers praised the Yutong buses they drive that are made in China.
The newspaper surveyed Yutong drivers after Cuban traffic authorities
reported 437 bus accidents in Cuba since July 2005, but none involved a Yutong
While some bus exporters have encountered difficulties on their route to
export success, their coaches are now welcomed in many countries around the
"In the next three to five years, more and more Chinese buses will be
exported to Europe and America", predicted European consulting firm Capgemini in
2005. "China will be not only a bus manufacturing giant, but also a bus export
The projection has now become reality.
Statistics from the Trade Association of Coach and Bus Operations show that
China produced 38,900 large-sized buses and 55,900 mid-sized buses with a value
of 30 billion yuan in 2005, accounting for one-third of the world's total.
Yet the country exported 5,756 buses that year, accounting for only six
percent of the global total. The nation's bus exports experienced a breakout
only a year later.
According to China Bus Information Center, domestic bus manufacturers
traveled the globe seeking opportunities and China's bus exports showed the
result, with sales topping 11,488 units in 2006, 117.45 percent higher than the
figure of the previous year.
The most remarkable growth comes from Suzhou Kinglong, whose exports grew by
409 percent over 2005.
"We reaped great benefits in the global bus market last year, generating
$81.63 million from the sale of 1,548 buses. This is significant compared to the
$15 million we made from exports in 2005 and the $3 million we made in 2004,"
says Xu Jianzhong, vice-general manager of Suzhou Kinglong.
And the trend is continuing this year.
In January, Suzhou Kinglong announced that it won an additional order from
Qatar for 300 more Higer buses, a result of their performance during Doha Asian
Games last December.
The smallest country to host the Asian games, Qatar purchased 500 Higer
buses, valued at 300 million yuan, from Suzhou Kinglong to shuttle athletes,
officials and media from all over the world to various venues during the games.
It was the first time Chinese buses served such a global event, selected over
the likes of German-made Mercedes-Benz and MAN buses.
Yutong, China's top bus producer, exported 1,300 units to Cuba out of its
total exports of 2,002 buses in 2006, and plans to further export another 5,000
to the island nation in three years. The first shipment of Yutong buses was
received last February at a ceremony hosted by Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
According to Huatai Securities, Yutong has confirmed the export order of over
1,000 units this month, excluding the coaches to Cuba.
On March 28, 500 JAC buses produced by Anhui JAC Automotive Co Ltd set out
for Algeria from its headquarters in Hefei of Central China's Anhui Province to
promote the company's exports.
The company sold 510 coaches abroad in 2006, but in the first quarter of
2007, 700 units were outbound, an increase of 137 percent compared with the same
period last year.
Dongfeng Motor Co signed a deal with Egypt in the first quarter of this year
for the export of bus chassis. The first shipment of 800 units will be sent to
the African nation within the year.
The order follows the corporation's largest deal last year, when it exported
1,000 buses to Ukraine.
She Zhenqing, chief analyst of China Bus Information Center, predicts that
"by 2010, exports of made-in-China buses will account for 30 percent of world's
Growing markets and quality
Although the average bus price is still low compared with the products from
MAN and Volvo, the price of Chinese buses increased from an average of $16,400
per unit in 2004, to $30,100 per unit in 2005 to more than $33,750 each last
Yutong's buses sold to Cuba even reached as high as $70,000 per unit last
Chinese bus makers also began to find their own trade opportunities instead
of the waiting for orders as was often the case before.
Xu of Suzhou Kinglong tells China Business Weekly that when the Qatar
government prepared for the Asian Games, they first thought about European
buses. "Once we got the information, we invited the officials to our Suzhou
factory to know the Kinglong bus," he says.
"Due to our active approach, Suzhou Kinglong got the big order from the rich
Arabian country," Xu adds.
Xiamen Kinglong last year signed a cooperation agreement with Ukraine to
export 500 complete knocked down (CKD) buses within two years.
Zonda Industrial Group in Yancheng of East China's Jiangsu Province also
exports CKD units to Vietnam, with 50 assembly sets sent last year and 2,000
more CKD units scheduled this year.
Domestic bus producers started to target developed regions last year after
previously focusing on developing countries.
Chinese branded buses are now commonly exported to developing nations in
Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.
And some bus makers that have successful and stable footholds in developing
countries have awakened to the potential in the developed nations of Europe and
"Europe is the next keystone of our international program, not only because
of the huge market potential there, but also because it has the strictest market
standards in the world," says Xu of Suzhou Kinglong.
(China Daily 04/23/2007 page5)