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School bus is new King

Chinese-made buses are now available in Australia.

Australian bus-body builders are on alert after the arrival of the first bus with a body built in China by leading bus builder King Long China.

The bus, built on an Iveco chassis, is the first of many expected to be imported by King Long Australia, which has a deal with the Chinese company to build its bodies.

Dubbed the Australis, the King Long bus is designed to be used as a school or charter bus. In its base form it can seat 57 passengers, but can be extended to seat more, depending on customer needs.

The Australis complies with ADRs and has modern styling, a marine-grade stainless-steel body frame, aluminium side panels and a one-piece fibreglass roof.

It features seats rimmed in cloth to the customer's requirements, luggage racks with individual airconditioning outlets and reading lights.

The ergonomically designed driver's cockpit has all controls within easy reach. It also has an adjustable seat, power windows, reversing sensors and a camera.

“Rather than have a bus dedicated to school use, we chose a higher specification that was priced at the school-bus level yet could also be used for charter work,” King Long Australia's Adrian van Geelen says.

The first bus to arrive in Australia was built on an Iveco chassis, but Long also builds on MAN, Mercedes-Benz and Hino chassis.

He says King Long China can build and deliver buses at competitive prices, and quickly.

Local bus-body builders can take more than a year to deliver a bus, but King Long can deliver a bus in as little as three months.

“At the moment you have to wait as long as 18 months to get a new bus,” van Geelen says.

“King Long builds more than 20,000 buses a year, that's one bus every 15 minutes, which means we can take an order for a bus and deliver it in a month or two.”

King Long Australia has established a service and spare parts network to support the buses it sells.

A two-year warranty applies to the body of the Australis, with the chassis covered by its manufacturer.

According to van Geelen, the market for school buses alone this year was 450, which has put pressure on local body builders.

It also gives King Long Australia an opportunity to establish a foothold for its buses.