German automaker Daimler is now testing two bus models it launched in Kenya in July this year. The Mercedes-Benz brand is known for their luxury cars and heavy duty commercial trucks. The company now seeks to compete in the local bus industry with automakers Isuzu and Scania who dominate the market.
During the launch of the MB 917 city bus and the MB 1730 inter-city bus, Daimler noted that the two bus models are built in Nairobi in collaboration with local sales partner DT Dobie. In a press release, Daimler stated that the buses are specifically designed in consideration of the challenging road conditions in Kenya.
The MB 917 city bus is smaller of the two, with a carrying capacity of 37 people. It will be ideal for use as a school bus, staff bus or urban shuttle bus. The bigger MB 1730 is designed for long-distance travel and can accommodate up to 60 passengers.
The inter-city MB 1730 has been spotted around the country as technicians and stakeholders carry out road tests. Long distance drivers I talked to intimated that uptake of the Mercedes buses will be quick given the brand’s popularity in terms of safety, comfort and reliability.
However, the drivers had misgivings on the windshield and front of the body. They noted that the windshield is not adequately sheathed, noting that the glass may easily come off or crack from intense vibrations due to poor roads. Indeed, the windshield on one of the test drive buses spotted was already cracked.
The drivers also had issue with the bus’s nose, noting that it was susceptible to bumps and bruises because of design and long distance between the front wheels and the bumper.
While Scania and Isuzu will definitely be no pushovers for the top spot, Mercedes Benz’s strong brand will smoothen their path. The fact that Daimler buses are the only to have ABS brakes and precision steering systems may give the company an added advantage.