Hyundai Universe Bus spotted in Chennai; Is it a missed opportunity?

Unlike the passenger car segment which has just grown beyond imagination resulting in the presence of very best of brands in the Indian market, the commercial vehicle sector is still in the nascent stages of development. It is more so when it comes to buses, which, by the way, forms an arterial mode of transport for people across the country. If not for the entry of Volvo, we would probably still be traveling in poorly-maintained and rickety buses operated by our State Transport Undertakings. The Swedish bus-maker entered the scene all of a sudden and changed the landscape of high-end public transport in India once and for all. In fact, it took almost a decade for another global player, this time the world's largest bus-maker Mercedes-Benz, to even try and challenge the monopoly of Volvo in our country.

While the Indian giants Tata and Ashok Leyland didn't had the expertise and experience in making high-end buses to compete with Volvo, other well established global brands like Scania and MAN neither had the presence nor the image to join the fray. But, we had always felt that one particular manufacturer which had all the above and some more just did not leverage its strengths. It has been manufacturing and selling high-end buses in its home country and elsewhere for many years, it had the presence (a huge one at that) in India and its brand image and awareness is amongst the best in the country. If you are lost wondering, we are talking about none other than the South Korean manufacturer Hyundai. The recent spotting of this Universe Express Noble coach of Hyundai in Chennai reignited this thought to us.

Chennai being the hub of Hyundai, it is quite normal to see unique vehicles that are not sold in India roaming around the city roads for transporting the company executives. We have seen models as varied as the previous generation Avante (Elantra), the H800 van and the premium Azera sedan doing official duty. Another such vehicle is the Hyundai Universe bus that you see in this post. Primarily used for transporting the delegates visiting the company, the Universe bus is catching the attention of the public like no other. As is evident from the pictures, the Universe is quite a 'looker' with a sleek and stylish design that can comfortably hold its own against Volvo and Mercedes-Benz. With even the base variants getting Hyundai's 11-liter Powertec engine and feature-loaded, ultra-luxurious interiors, the Universe is no slouch in power and comfort either.

So, with all things looking just right, what stopped Hyundai from making a splash in the bus segment with this model? Agreed, there is this failed joint-venture with Caparo for manufacturing previous generation Aero buses that didn't go beyond the announcement stage, but that has got more to do with Caparo's instability rather than something related to Hyundai itself. With all the primary infrastructure in place, it wouldn't have cost Hyundai much time and money in setting up a new facility for making these buses. This then is definitely an opportunity lost by the South Korean giant. With roads getting better day by day and more and more people preferring to travel by road, the demand in the luxury intercity transport sector is only going to grow further. And the Universe fits the bill perfectly for being a strong contender in that segment.

Will Hyundai make up it's mind on time to be a part of this segment when it matters? Will we get to see the aggressive 2012 Universe that has just been face-lifted on our roads? Only Seoul would have the answers.

1 comment: