Airport bus business up for TAM-Europe
After being forced to scale down production during the pandemic due to a slump in demand for airport buses, the Maribor-based commercial vehicle manufacturer TAM-Europe is back in business in global markets this year. It has recently supplied ten airport buses to Saudi Arabia.
The company has also delivered ten buses to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Sales manager Matej Smrekar says France is a new market for them and given the good cooperation he is confident that they will start to conquer it.
"We have had a lot of orders from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East from the start, so we are practically keeping up with their bus replacement plan," he said, noting that airports were operating at a very reduced level during the pandemic, which had a significant impact on their investments.
Although 2022 started out on a positive note as well, a number of potential deals were cancelled due to the Ukraine-Russia conflict. "We had orders for ten vehicles for Ukraine and six for Russia, which were then cancelled," said Smrekar. Demand picked up again towards the end of the year.
Last year, the company manufactured around 20 airport buses, but this year it has had a lot more inquiries, orders and is also applying to several international tenders. The company believes this year could be its best since 2013.
In the past, the American and African markets may have been somewhat neglected, with the exception of the northern Africa, where the company is already present. More activity is planned there this year.
"However, these are specific deals, as the global airport market is controlled by about a thousand people around the world. Since 2013, and especially since 2017, we have made a lot of contacts, so we are basically the second largest manufacturer in the world. We are successfully chasing our biggest rival and are in a very good position for the coming years," Smrekar said.
Ever since it revived production of the former Maribor bus and truck maker TVM with the help of Chinese investors, TAM-Europe has been actively working on starting serial production of an electric bus for urban passenger transport. This could well become its dominant product in the future.
The development phase of the project is concluded and the company can now apply to EU calls. Testing has been conducted in Malta, the German cities of Passau and Hamburg, and at Dubai airport. Due to the planned expansion of production, the company is looking to hire some 120 new staff for work in the production but also back-office staff.
Although the market is small, the company also sees potential in Slovenia as the country plans a transition of urban public transport to sustainable energy sources. It is also a partner of Fraport, the operator of Ljubljana airport, which has TAM buses.
TAM-Europe, which rose from the ashes of TVM and has taken over the more than 75-year-old TAM brand, is owned by Chinese investors China Hi-Tech New Energy Auto Company, and led by directors Ma Fuxiong and Fan Wentang. The latter joined the team last month.