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October 26 2017
By Tim Deakin

Tim is Editor of routeone and has worked in both the coach and bus and haulage industries.

EVM setting Trends with its new low-cost minibus

Investment and development continues apace at converter EVM, and one of the latest products to come to market is a 12-seat Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-based minibus that is competitively priced

The EVM Trend is a lightweight and very keenly-priced 12-seat minibus

The smallest end of the minibus market is competitive, because buyers that want a straightforward 12-seater have lots of choice.

A new challenger will soon come to the sector thanks to EVM. The Irish converter has revealed its Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 314CDi-based Trend, first developed to satisfy a 260-minibus order for the type from one customer.

The Trend was created to satisfy a straightforward design brief. That required a cost-effective, small minibus for school work that can be driven by people with no experience of or licence for anything larger.

It certainly delivers in the former regard, with EVM Sales Director Danny McGee saying that it will retail for £32,000. EVM’s Kilbeggan plant is currently working its way through the initial order.

Keenly priced…

“The Trend was developed for one customer, but it will also be offered to the rest of the market. We see it appealing to the school and private hire sectors in particular. Because its gross vehicle weight is below 3,500kg, it can be driven by most holders of a Category B licence.”

Conversion work centres on producing a workmanlike people mover. EVM adds a floor and 12 Brusa seats along with a small luggage rack on the nearside. The Trend retains its OEM passenger door, where EVM adds a step, and it also lowers the rear wheel arches. But that’s about it.

To entry-level specification, the completed minibus tips the scales at a marked 2,500kg unladen. EVM adds no saloon heating or air-conditioning; because the internal area is small, tests have proven that the dash-mounted vents are powerful enough to heat or cool the entire minibus.

Although it may sound like a bargain-basement conversion, the Trend has a lot going for it. The Brusa seats are attractive and comfortable and they come with high backs and three-point belts, while the saloon is airy.

The Sprinter base vehicle’s durability is well proven, and like all EVM products on the Sprinter, a three-year unlimited mileage Mercedes-Benz chassis warranty is standard.

Internal specification is surprisingly high, including high-backed seats

Other developments

Besides the Trend, EVM continues to press on in other areas.

It now has a four-strong sales team in the UK; Danny heads it, while specialising in accessible products – the low-floor Sprinter based models that can now carry up to 25 passengers and the Metro LF – is Peter Flynn.

Then covering the north and the south of the country respectively are Matthew Thompson and David O’Leary, among whose brief it is to attract and deal with conquest customers.

The first Metro LF – a product that debuted in 2016 at Euro Bus Expo – is currently on demonstration with potential buyers.

It is a fully low-floor, composite manufactured minibus based on the Fiat Ducato chassis, and the body is entirely corrosion resistant and offers a very long life.

“The Metro LF is aimed at local authorities and community transport organisations,” says Danny. “It seats up to 16 and production models will be built at Kilbeggan.”

Why choose EVM?

Both the Trend and the Metro LF are products in market segments that are already congested, so what is the benefit to the buyer of going with EVM?

“Our business model is to build vehicles to a high standard and sell them ourselves. There is no benefit to moving production to lower-wage economies because transport costs mitigate any savings that may be made,” says Danny.

“We work with recognised brands on doors, glass, heating and air-conditioning and other components. For example, PSV Glass holds all the glass that EVM uses and it can replace broken windows quickly. We have also gone with Brusa for seats in the Trend because it is a recognised manufacturer.”

A small luggage pen is provided on the Trend, which has a front door

Quality of build and finish is another important aspect, he says. EVM’s factory is modern and it has taken in-house the production of items such as luggage racks, wheel arches and other items needed during the conversion process. Efficiency also plays a major part in the assembly process.

“The system that we use is like a Lego set. Every task has a set amount of time allocated to it and there are no ‘special projects’ areas,” says Danny.

The method of work allocation means that skilled craftsmen can earn highly, and so there are no problems in recruiting.

Once any painting required has taken place in EVM’s extensive spraying facilities, the completed vehicle proceeds to a preparation area, where it is cleaned, inspected and made ready for delivery.

The manufacturer has spent a lot on this last step of the process, and it doesn’t matter whether your vehicle is a top-spec minicoach with all of the toys, or a Trend that is built for school work: All are treated equally.

And preparing Trends for dispatch may yet become a routine part of business at Kilbeggan, even after the initial large order has been completed.

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