New bus factory for VDL in Roeselare
The Dutch VDL Groep is planning a brand new factory in Roeselare. This ensures the future of the West Flemish specialist in electric buses. Especially Dutch and Scandinavian customers place a lot of (100) orders for electric buses at VDL. The Belgian transport company, De Lijn, only ordered seven electric buses so far.
VDL Bus (Dutch bus manufacturer) recently bought an 8 hectare site near Roeselaere (Belgium). The company wants to build a brand new factory for the production of electric buses. “We need to modernize the production of our electric buses”, says VDL director, Peter Wouters. “Otherwise, as happened with the diesel buses, we will be driven out of the market by companies from the Far East.”
The purchase of the new site is good news for the 600 employees of VDL in Roeselare. This site wants to invest in technology to enable the complex production of hybrid and electric buses. However, the sale of e-buses got off to a slow start and that is why the Roeselare factory has been accumulating losses for years. Over the past five years, the plant has made a net loss of almost 18 million euro.
Belgium lags behind
Today the factory is at a turning point. Especially Dutch and Scandinavian customers place a lot of orders for electric buses. Last year, for example, the factory was allowed to deliver 100 electric buses in the Amsterdam region, representing a contract of 65 million euro. Unfortunately, the Belgian transport companies are also reluctant to follow. De Lijn recently ordered its first seven electric buses in Roeselare.
Profitable as from 2019
Due to the increasing demand for e-buses (with a price tag of 600.000 euro twice as much as a diesel bus), the turnover of the factory increased last year by 20% to 117 million euro. While the factory has continued to produce many diesel buses in recent years to keep its staff working, the order book for electric and hybrid buses is already full until the summer of 2019. Next year there should be a profit on the table.
Confidence in local craftsmanship
Wouters sees the purchase of the new site as a sign of confidence in the local craftsmanship. The owners could also build the factory in the Netherlands, where they have several other bus factories. VDL Bus and Van Hool in Lier are the only two remaining bus manufacturers in Belgium. At present, Van Hool is producing more and more buses in Macedonia.