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by Tony Wilding, MIMechE, MIRTE
YUGOSLAVIA has one of the fastest growing commercial vehicle industries in Europe. Figures show that the numbers of trucks and buses registered in the country have increased by over 300 per cent in the past 10 years. The numbers are still rising and so are the figures for vehicle production by Yugoslav companies and imports. With a shortage of "hard" currency, importing complete vehicles is difficult, and where a high standard of design is needed such as in the heavier-weight field the practice has been to develop licence agreements.
At the Belgrade Show which opened last Saturday this practice can be seen to have developed one or two stages further. The two main local makers are TAM and the FAP-Famos Group (FFB). TAM has had a long-standing licence agreement for heavy vehicles with Klockner-Humboldt-Deutz of Germany and FFB has produced under a Saurer licence. But now FFB has come to a licensing arrangement with Daimler-Benz of Germany and is showing prototypes of two psv based on Mercedes-Benz chassis but with local bodies.
A third vehicle producing group has recently been formed in Yugoslavia to incorporate a number of existing companies in the field. The Group initials are LTMI and members include the Ikarus psv bodybuilding concern (not to be confused with the Hungarian company of the same name) and ZMAJ, the light-truck producer. Ikarus has built psv to MAN designs under licence for a couple of years and this German company also appears well placed for the future. MAN is, in fact, showing one of its psv chassis which is to be produced by Ikarus under licence.
The Daimler-Benz/FFB agreement had not been finally sealed by the opening of the Show, although this was said to be imminent and apart from the two prototype psv, the Yugoslav group has Mercedes-Benz trucks on display which complement the large number on Daimler-Benz's own stand.
The Belgrade Show is a truly international affair and as well as all the main western European manufacturers—including BLMC from this country, Scania-Vabis and Volvo from Sweden, Fiat from Italy, Barreiros from Spain and the big West German contingent—there are more East European makers than at similar events held elsewhere. There are Russian, Polish, East German, Czechoslovakian and Hungarian vehicles and while there is little noteworthy about the majority of the exhibits except perhaps a noticeable improvement from the previous poor quality of finish in the case of the Russian, Polish and East German trucks, a new Csepel four-wheeler is featured by Mogurt of Hungary together with two big MAN tractors built by RABA of that country under an MAN licence. These are to the latest MAN design with German-made cabs but with MAN engines and axles built by RABA.
Maximum gross weights in Yugoslavia are equal to those existing in most of Europe. Except for a 40-ton tractor /trailer maximum they follow closely the German limits with a 10-ton axle limit and 16-ton four-wheelers, 22-ton six-wheelers and 38-ton. artics. But only the State-run goods transport organization can operate above 6.5 tons gross, so the majority of exhibits in the goods field are of lightand medium-weight models; most of the 38-ton-gross tractive units are on the "foreign" stands, including that of BLMC. Without full details. of the agreement between FFB and Daimler-Benz (these will not be available until after the deal is
completed) it is not possible to say to what extent Mercedes-Benz vehicles will be manufactured in Yugoslavia. If the practice adopted by other companies in Yugoslavia is followed—especially in respect of
cart—particular designs will be selected as ,potential "good sellers" and any other models wanted imported complete.
The prototypes shown by FFB are an 0.302 luxury coach with 170 bhp rear engine and an 0.317 city bus which has components as used in the German VOV standard design, made by Daimler-Benz including 210 bhp diesel at the rear. The two exhibits have bodies by 11 Oktornvri. the FFB bodybuilding firm, the chassis having been imported from Germany. But plans are that the chassis will be assembled using imported units and components as the next ' stage with possible manufacture of certain items later. on. It is also on the cards that Mercedes-Benz goods vehicles will follow a similar pattern at some future date.
While the advantages to Yugoslavia of such licensing agreements are obviously the saving of hard currency, the "foreign" vehicle manufacturer gains from the fact that labour and local materials used cost less.
MAN models Often in such arrangements payment is made in another commodity, but this does not mean that the company doing the selling has to find an outlet for a load of agricultural produce, for example. Yugoslavia has well-developed industries and it is often the case that the payment can be of cash plus material or components of use to the manufacturer.
There is a good example of this on the MAN Stand where a 40ft. container produced by MAN to American Trailmobile design is made from light-alloy obtained from Yugoslavia. As I have already said, an important exhibit on the MAN Stand is a psv chassis—an 890 with 192 bhp mid-underfloor engine and air suspension—which Ikarus will be producing under licence. The board in front of the chassis says that the exhibit was made by Ikarus but this is not so. Ikarus is showing examples of complete psv made under licence but while these carry the MAN name and have German-made units, there is one Ikarus bus to the firm's own design which has an MAN engine which turned out to be one that was imported from Hungary where it was built by RABA under an MAN licence..
The MAN models shown by RABA referred to earlier are a two-axle tractor and a two-axle tractive unit, both of them for operation at 38 tons gross. A lighter truck accompanying them on the Mogurt Stand is the Csepel 452 which is a new design but unfortunately no technical details could be obtained; in common with most of the other East European Stands the exhibits were there but the exhibitors did not seem to see any point in having personnel to answer inquiries.
The signs are that the UMI Group will become a major force in the Yugoslav vehicle industry. A translation of the company name is "United Machine Industry" and it is made up of organizations which have licensing agreements for a variety of agricultural equipment and Perkins, Leyland and Fiat industrial engines as well as the ZMA..1 and Ikarus concerns, But I heard that the Group is now in negotiations with Ford to make lighter models up to about 6 tons gross and that these will have local cabs. The company that builds Fiat cars under licence—Zavodi Crvena Zastava—is also likely to enter the truck field with OM models.
With all that has gone on, the future prospect of sales in Yugoslavia do not look very promising for companies that have missed the boat in setting up links with local companies. But there could be a lot of scope for component and garage equipment companies who are willing to consider manufacturing-licence deals where the payment could be in some form that was
not solely hard cash. With the growth in the number of cars and commercial vehicles in use in Yugoslavia there will be a soaring market for servicing equipment. A number of British firms in this field are at Belgrade with component makers in a joint exhibition organized by the SMMT and Board of Trade. Unfortunately, those I spoke to on this subject could see more disadvantages than advantages in such arrangements.
.Returning to the vehicle exhibits. the news from TAM is the introduction of a revised design of 2-tonner which is available in various forms including integral van and box body versions. The engine produces 61 bhp and drives through a five-speed synchromesh gearbox. IMV, the Yugoslav company which makes BLMC cars under licence as well as its own design of front-wheel-drive van—the 1600 for up to 1.5 ton loads—has also introduced new models at the Show—diesel-engined versions of the 1600. The engine is the BMC 1.5 litre diesel (in place of the standard BMC 1.6 litre petrol) which drives through a ZF gearbox.
Barreiros of Spain has chosen the Belgrade Show to introduce six-wheel versions of its latest goods chassis. These are the 6426 6x 4 and 6226 6 x 2, the latter having a self-tracking single-tyred rear axle. Both are designed for operation with trailers at up to 38 tons gross, the limit solo being 26 tons. Cabs on these 'vehicles are attractive and well fitted, especially the model with de luxe sleeper cab. Barreiros is also showing its 6000 luxury coach which was introduced about a year ago and has a mid-horizontal engine, this having a 170 bhp diesel as against the 216 bhp engine in the trucks.