Wrightbus drives east as UK market hits saturation point
The boss of Ballymena firm Wrightbus has said that the company recognises that the UK and Ireland markets are "saturated" as it looks towards further expansion into developing economies.
Managing director Mark Nodder was speaking as it emerged that the company plans to open a joint production centre in India – the world's second most populous country.
The company already sends bus kits and staff to Singapore and Hong Kong for assembly and has a contract to supply 608 new buses for London over three years in a deal worth around £212m.
Wrightbus recently reported pre-tax profits of £3.85m on a turnover of £157m for 2012 – up from £133m in 2011.
Mr Nodder said that the company plans to team up with a European firm which makes chassis and engines for trucks and which already has a base in the Madras region and use Indian workers, materials and components.
"We are looking at sourcing materials and components for our UK bus and our overseas kits at lower costs in India and we are looking at finding a way of breaking into the Indian market and making buses locally as opposed to moving staff or production to India from Ballymena," he said.
"We have been very successful in south-east Asia, using the business model of shipping a kit, and we have ambitions to grow the company even further and shipping a kit to India would not be cost-effective.
"We recognise that the UK and Ireland markets are saturated and new business has to come from the export market. Singapore and China have been very successful for us and India is a huge developing market. We have a sales team covering a lot of ground but we're at the very start of a project which could take several years to mature."
Wrightbus, founded in 1946, is still owned by the Wright family and employs more than 1,000 staff. In 2012 the company won a £41m three-year contract to supply 550 double deck bus kits for local assembly in Singapore.
And in February this year Wrightbus landed a £28m contract to supply 179 StreetLite vehicles to FirstGroup, the leading UK/US operator.