24 Dec 2019


In the Netherlands, two orders have recently been awarded for respectively 156 and 259 electric buses to Ebusco and BYD. In an open letter owner and Non-Executive Director of the VDL Groep, Wim van der Leegte, complained about the awarding of these orders to orders to a Chinese company and a Dutch which has its buses built in China. As a result, the Dutch State Secretary for Economic Affairs has promised to investigate the procedure.

Although the Dutch government has little to say about the awarding of such orders by a private public transport company, State Secretary Mona Keijzer says that she understands Van der Leegte's position and wants to see whether the award has been made according to the rules. "I understand his frustration. VDL is a beautiful Dutch company that creates a lot of jobs. The question is whether there is unfair competition here. I don't know that yet."

The national government also has little say in the granting of a public transport concession. That is a matter between the grantor and contractor. In the open letter Van der Leegte refers to unfair competition. Ebusco is a Dutch based company but has its buses built in China and BYD is a Chinese bus manufacturer with a factory in Hungary. The 156 e-buses were ordered by Transdev and the 259 buses by Keolis, both French.

According to Van der Leegte, it will cost the Netherlands 800 man-years of work, excluding outsourced work and research and development at suppliers and knowledge institutions. In his open letter Van der Leegte writes: "Of course we have a business interest in delivering buses. But as a champion of maintaining employment in the high-quality Dutch manufacturing industry, we are genuinely deeply concerned about the awarding of the aforementioned concessions. The number of city buses in the Netherlands is approximately 6,500. Taking into account a depreciation of 10 to 15 years, the market is largely filled in for 2020. So for next year there is little room for our Dutch buses, while being the European leader in electrification our home market is crucial for heavy transport.”

At the same time, he argues that China exports goods to the Netherlands for 35 billion euros, while Dutch goods are only purchased for 10 billion euros and that China is foreclosing its own market with high import duties. "The trade balance is out of control. If we no longer produce in the Netherlands, we will lose knowledge and follow the capital and therefore our prosperity. Apart from economies of scale, cheaper wages and often applied government support, it is also easier for Chinese companies to export to Europe instead of the other way around: Chinese hardly pay import duties for their products in Europe, while Europe is faced with strong import duties."

Van der Leegte emphasizes that exactly one year ago Siemens Hengelo was taken over by the VDL Groep, thus securing around 450 jobs for the Dutch high-quality industry. “Around a thousand employees work at our companies in Overijssel (province in the Netherlands) and we will invest in the region for at least seventy million euros over the next two years. VDL Groep has a total of 104 operating companies with 17,110 employees, 85 percent of whom (14,421 employees) work in the Netherlands. Approximately 2,600 at VDL Bus & Coach in the Netherlands and Belgium.

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