China Goes Schoolbus Crazy

Tycho de Feyter
by Tycho de Feyter
china goes schoolbus crazy

China has 1.4 billion people, and despite rumors to the contrary, it has some 200 million children that have to be ferried to school every day. Since there were no rules for this sort of transport, local schools used whatever vehicles they could find to bring children to class without paying any attention to safety. Because of that, things went wrong now and then, especially in the messy countryside.

Since it was usually about small numbers, one or two children dead, nobody really cared. Recently, three big school bus accidents happened where altogether more than 30 children died. China suddenly woke up and the central government belatedly announced strict rules for school-buses. Sure enough, car companies jumped at the opportunity to earn some good old government money. They came up with brand-new ‘super-safe buses-’In this article, we take a look at three of them.

This fine looking vehicle is simply called ‘Chengdu School bus.’ It was unveiled only a few weeks ago. Manufacturer is the ‘Chengdu Automobile Factory’ in the great city of Chengdu in Sichuan province. In basic configuration it is six meters long, it seats 24 students and costs 150.000 yuan ($23,800.) There will be longer versions from 7 and 9 meters as well.

According to the factory, ‘mass production is about to begin’. The Chengdu School bus is equipped with all kinds of safety systems such as emergency doors and alarm buttons next to each seat (that will be a lot of fun, I guess that function will be disabled soon, or a master switch will be installed.)

Our second vehicle is the Maxus V80 School bus. Maxus is a brand from SAIC (a.k.a. Shanghai Auto) that bought Maxus from bankrupt British LDV, and set up production in China. The normal Maxus V80 was listed in September, the V80 school bus version was unveiled in early December. It is a much more van-like design and seats 16 students. There won’t be any extended versions.

The price for a basic V80 school bus starts at some 160.000 yuan ($25,400.) Just like the Chengdu, the V80 has all kinds of safety systems including a bunch of cameras and a system that opens all doors (two at the front + rear doors) at the push of one button. Note that colors and graphics on the outside of all buses is the same, this indeed is a first sign of the new government-regulations. The Maxus V80 School bus will be listed early next year.

Our third vehicle is the big FAW School bus. It is a copy of the iconic American school bus, nobody tries to hide that and nobody cares, Chinese media calls it ‘our domestic American schoolbus’. It debuted as a just-for-fun concept car on the 2010 Beijing Auto Show. After the above mentioned misery, FAW quickly decided to produce their domestic American school bus and brought it to the market in November.

The FAW School bus is by far the biggest school bus available today; it can carry 37 students. It is already is use in some 25 cities in China. The FAW comes with safety features such as an escape hatch in the roof and a sprinkler system (that one is going to be a lot of fun as well…) .

Let’s hope these three beautiful buses will save some lives. Sadly, experience tells that these well-meant government initiatives usually die within a year, mostly due to all sorts of obstruction at the local level. But at least, there is a start…

Dutchman Tycho de Feyter runs, a blog about cars in China, from Beijing, China. He also collects die-cast models of Chinese cars.

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  • MrWhopee MrWhopee on Jan 03, 2012

    The upholstery is definitely nicer than US schoolbuses', whose vinyl seats are designed with durability first and foremost. I think the Americans did it out of experience. Those nice cloth upholstery will be destroyed in no time at all, and then they'll copy the American's durable vinyl seats. I have to confess I had ridden a schoolbus only once (university field trip), and it has the most uncomfortable ride I've ever experienced. I think the bus might have kept the truck suspension of the chassis it is based.

    • Dastanley Dastanley on Jan 03, 2012

      Agreed, the school buses were certainly not comfortable for road trips. When I ran cross country and track in high school, we would often bounce around on the bus for a couple of hours on the interstate to get to some regional meet. And what was worse was our old church bus. It was an old worn out school bus purchased at an auction, painted green and white, and had the added benefit of breaking down frequently on road trips. I remember a skiing trip the youth group did in Gatlinburg, TN in Jan '81 in that blasted bus. Let's see, the bus stalled out several times along the interstate and would restart only with great difficulty, got stuck in the snow at the ski resort... Ah, memories.

  • Newfdawg Newfdawg on Jan 03, 2012

    Ah, this brings back memories of all the years I rode to and from school in these vehicles. They rode like connestoga wagons(actually I think the wagons probably had a more comfortable ride), were incredibly noisey, reeked of gasoline fumes and had industrial grade upholstery. The transmissions in these things must have been incredibly durable because it seemed like every driver was always grinding gears as they shifted.

  • Analoggrotto The factory is delayed due to an investigation of a peter puffery ring lead by VoGhost, Tassos, EBFlex a Civic Type-R
  • FreedMike Looking forward to the protests at the factory accusing Toyota of excessive woke-ism. First,, grooming.
  • MrIcky I remember when Gladiators came out and everyone was shocked at how expensive they were. Now all the off road specials have caught up or passed it financially. I like this truck a lot, but I'd still take my Rubicon over this. I'd take this over the Ranger Raptor or Tacoma TRD though. When I found out the increase in track for the new TRD was just wheel offset-I knew they were just phoning it in. Why spend so much R&D on those stupid seats when you could have r&d'd longer arms or a front locker.
  • Alan Hmm, I see a bit of politicking here. What qualifications do you need to run GM or Ford? I'd bet GM or Ford isn't run by experienced people. Anyone at that level in an organisation doesn't need to be a safety whip, you need to have the ability to organise those around you to deliver the required results.
  • Alan That's about $74k AUD, seems like a good price for the vehicle of this calibre. I think the Ranger Raptor will start around the $78k mark here. A friend of mine just bought a W580 Amarok for $97k. Nissan have the Navara Warrior which is cheaper, I think it starts in the high $50s. The cheapest is a Chinese iteration of one of these off road tuned vehicles starting in the $40s ($29k USD). But all of the above vehicles are not equal. I would think the Raptor is by far your best bet for an off roader.