The Indian bus market saw a strong sales rebound in FY23 after suffering the impact of the pandemic. While the light and medium duty (LMD) bus segment achieved a new peak in volumes last fiscal, the heavy duty (HD) category is yet to see its peak though it continues to improve.

In the post-Covid period, the truck segment saw a recovery in demand and entered into a stable growth path. But, the bus segment remained significantly weak compared with pre-Covid volumes due to muted demand from schools, offices and travel segments in FY21 and FY22.

However, with the gradual reopening of educational institutions and offices, demand for new buses also started to improve in the last fiscal. Leading bus manufacturers — Ashok Leyland, VE Commercial Vehicles Ltd and Tata Motors — have reported a strong increase in bus volumes in FY23.

Demand recovery

“Light and medium bus segment suffered the most for about two years due to Covid. But, the demand came back last year as schools and colleges reopened. Staff movement also returned during the first half of FY23. It is still at a lower level but continues to improve,” Akash Passey, President, Bus Division, VE Commercial Vehicles Ltd (VECV), told businessline.

With the strong recovery in demand, total sales of light- and medium-duty buses in the market crossed the earlier peak of about 48,000 units — recorded four years ago — and touched a new peak of about 49,500 units in FY23.

“In FY23, the travel and tourism industry, too, rebounded with a revival in the economy. There is a strong replacement demand from schools and State transport undertakings; the bulk of this replacement demand has been due for 3-4 years,” said Rohit Srivastava, Vice President, Product Line – Buses, Tata Motors.

However, in the heavy-duty bus segment, though the demand came back in FY23, it is yet to reach its previous levels. Though inter-city travel has opened up, it has not yet normalised to the previous volume level. “The bus industry is still 10-15 per cent below the pre-Covid levels,” added Srivastava.

Who gained?

VECV Commercial Vehicles has gained in this demand rebound and garnered close to one-fourth of the market share in the domestic bus market in FY23. Passey said the company improved its overall share in the bus segment (includes light, medium and heavy) to about 24 per cent in FY23, up from about 22 per cent in FY22.

“VECV became the second largest bus manufacturer with its bus volumes touching 15,077 units, including 13,156 light and medium buses and 1,921 heavy-duty buses, in FY23 (up from about 3,768 buses in FY22). The total volumes include diesel, CNG and electric buses. The new product portfolio, the ramp-up in the dealer network and a host of customer-connect programmes helped us improve the share,” he added.

Total bus volumes of Ashok Leyland, a leading player in the heavy-duty bus category, grew to 10,819 units in FY23 as against 3,789 units in FY22.