Swiss bus manufacturer on the crossroads between tradition and innovation
Carrosserie HESS AG, which is based in Bellach and is Switzerland’s only bus manufacturer, was founded in 1882 as a wainwright and blacksmith that repaired wagons and trailers. It began selling passenger buses to the cities of Biel and Basel in the inter-war years and continuously expanded its range over the following decades.
Success thanks to innovation
Since then, HESS has developed into a medium-sized company that also owns a variety of subsidiaries and employs some 450 staff. HESS and its licensees produce up to 2 400 buses each year. What makes its products and services so attractive? “We see ourselves as an innovative company that maintains a constant focus on efficiency, reliability and environmental friendliness,” explains CEO Alex Naef. For example, HESS was the first bus manufacturer to use aluminium instead of the generally employed steel of the time. HESS also launched the world’s first low-floor double-articulated trolleybus in 2003. In addition, HESS uses a bolted, modular system instead of a welded body. This gives flexibility and has a positive impact on both production costs and service times.
The HESS product range includes electric and diesel-powered buses with a length of 8 – 25 metres, as well as vehicle superstructures and the requisite servicing. The technologies and construction kits developed by HESS are also sold to other bus manufacturers beyond the company’s own markets.
The majority of HESS’ customers are urban and regional transport companies, garages and commercial customers. HESS supplies companies around the world. For example, the French city of Nantes commissioned HESS to supply 20 double-articulated buses worth EUR 31 million.
“The options provided by SERV allow us to supply more of our products abroad and consider new markets. Risk protection and the fact that we can obtain cover for a working capital loan are basic prerequisites that enable us to take advantage of such orders abroad.”
The export challenge
HESS received a down payment of only 5 per cent of the order value for this first collaboration, which represents a major challenge for this medium-sized company. In foreign countries, it is frequently the case that only small down payments are made, or indeed none at all. SERV Swiss Export Risk Insurance has covered the remaining 95 per cent with pre-shipment risk insurance, supplier credit insurance and working capital insurance. “The options provided by SERV allow us to supply more of our products abroad and consider new markets. Risk protection and the fact that we can obtain cover for a working capital loan are basic prerequisites that enable us to take advantage of such orders abroad,” says CFO Ernst Basler.